Ireland's implementation of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention: Could be better
Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 2:18AM
Alistair Craig in KPMG, Mahon Tribunal, OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials, OECD Working Group, UK Bribery Act

Seasoned observers will recall how, over a 20-year period, a succession of long-running corruption inquiries have consistently revealed that certain players in Irish business and government circles appear to have been ethically challenged.

Set against that backdrop is the OECD's Phase 3 Working Group's report on Ireland's implementation of the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials, published last month and well worth the read.

The report noted that the Irish public had been sensitized to corruption in the domestic public sector due to the more recent and highly publicized 'Mahon Tribunal' that took 15 years to conclude.

Consistent with a lack of any meaningful domestic enforcement, the Working Group's observation that Ireland had not prosecuted a foreign bribery case in the 12 years since its foreign bribery offense came into force and was investigating, on a rather desultory basis, one case and assessing three others should have caused little surprise.

The Working Group acknowledged the extenuating circumstances of the financial crash and the IMF bailout, but it pointed out that Ireland had treaty obligations under the Convention and that there was an urgent need to reorganize foreign bribery law enforcement resources in a credible manner.

The government and other non-governmental organizations may have been fully involved with the Working Group -- but the same could not be said for the private sector. Apart from three business associations and professional bodies, it was noted that only one private-sector company and no representatives of individual accounting firms deigned to turn up to Working Group meetings.

The Working Group did note some positive legislative and ethical achievements, but these were largely overshadowed by the failures, identified by way of recommendations. Some of them are summarized below:

The OECD's Working Group reports offer a valuable exercise in ensuring that the implementation of anti-bribery legislation amounts to more than mere window dressing.

At some point, however, the OECD may have to consider showing a little more teeth to countries that 'cock a snook' to the Convention by failing to implement its monitoring recommendations or comply with their treaty obligations.

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Alistair Craig is a commercial barrister practicing in London.

Article originally appeared on The FCPA Blog (http://www.fcpablog.com/).
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