Transparency International has named Australia as one of the most improved enforcers of anti-corruption in their annual progress report on the enforcement of the OECD Anti-bribery Convention. The high profile prosecution of executives of Securency International and Note Printing Australia has seen Australia move from the ‘little or no enforcement’ category to the ‘moderate enforcement’ category.
Executive Director of Transparency International Australia (TIA), Michael Ahrens, said the inaugural prosecution is an important step for Australia, even though improvements are still required in the current anti-corruption systems. ‘The improvement of Australia’s position is deserved recognition of the extensive forensic and international enforcement efforts of the AFP,’ Mr Ahrens said. ‘This is the first foreign bribery prosecution in Australia, and is a major one. The involvement of Central Bank officials from at least five countries in relation to the allegations is of great concern.’
The report also praised Australia for the forthcoming National Anti-Corruption Plan, currently in development by the Department of Attorney General. ‘TIA is hopeful that the current prosecution is indicative of our country placing greater importance on fighting corruption at home and in Australia’s dealings abroad,’ Mr Ahrens continued. ‘The first National Anti-Corruption Plan is currently in the works. It needs to commit to a number of basic measures to strengthen the oversight regime and in particular to reinvigorate the fight against bribery. We need to see Australian firms operating overseas held to a higher standard. Only where there is active enforcement is there sufficient deterrence against foreign bribery. It is like a partly built fence, everything just goes around it. Without collective, OECD wide commitment to end foreign bribery through adequate enforcement, the process is undermined and success will unravel.
Mr Ahrens stated that the federal government also needs the capacity to prevent, detect and investigate serious corruption that does not fit easily under the limited Australian Public Service misconduct regime. ‘Gaps in the current system arise quickly when there are not sufficiently clear and serious criminal offences to warrant the resources of the AFP,’ Mr Ahrens said.