MEDIA RELEASE: New research reveals Australia struggling to lift its game on stopping foreign bribery

12 October 2022

 Transparency International’s latest Exporting Corruption report finds Australia continues to lag in efforts to stop foreign bribery. 

The global report, timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, comes just days after the Australian Federal Police charged two former senior managers at the Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation (SMEC) over foreign bribery offences. 

‘Had these charges been laid a few months ago, it’s possible Australia may have finally broken through to the top category of Transparency International’s major anti-bribery report.’ said Transparency International Australia CEO, Clancy Moore. 

 ‘I commend the work of the Australian Federal Police to combat corruption. But the fact the investigation into the SMEC took almost a decade to reach this point demonstrates just how hard it is to detect bribery, and how much more we need to do to support police efforts. 

‘The unfortunate fact is detecting bribery can be like looking for a needle in a haystack – this is why we need policy reform to better shine a light on crime and corruption. 

 ‘As a matter of urgency, we need to pass amendments to the Criminal Code Act, which have been gathering dust on a shelf for too long, and ban ‘facilitation payments’ that can act as bribes. 

‘We also need to strengthen our anti-money laundering law so that professionals who more likely to come across dirty money – such as real estate agents, accountants and lawyers– are required to do proper due diligence and report suspicious transactions. 

 ‘Meanwhile we welcome the government’s commitment to introduce a public registry of beneficial ownership – if done right this will help uncover dodgy companies, corruption, and conflicts of interest. 

Transparency International’s global report also highlights the critical importance of whistleblowers the world over for helping detect bribery. The report identified a lack of adequate whistleblower protection as a key weakness in Australia. 

 ‘As our government now considers how it will strengthen whistleblower protections over the coming months, it needs to take note of just how important this reform is to stopping domestic and transnational corruption. 

‘Bribery is one of the most direct and damaging forms of corruption worldwide. It’s a threat to democracy and the rule of law, and a major handbrake on inclusive economic development for people living in poverty. 

‘By implementing these common-sense reforms to shine a light on corruption, and by closing the loopholes in our laws that enable criminals to hide dirty money, Australia can significantly boost our success rate in stopping foreign bribery.’ 

About the report

Exporting Corruption is published every two years to track countries’ efforts to stop foreign bribery. The latest report finds most of the world’s top exporting countries are not doing enough to stop foreign bribery, and many are sliding backwards. 

The 2022 report assessed 43 countries that signed on to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, along with China, India, Hong Kong SAR and Singapore. Just two countries, Switzerland and the United States, were rated ‘active enforcers’ that investigate, charge and impose sanctions commensurate with their share of exports. 

Australia was rated ‘moderate enforcer’ and has rated in this category since the 2013 Exporting Corruption report. In the period covered by the latest report Australia opened eight foreign bribery investigations, commenced seven cases and concluded five cases with sanctions.