Anti-bribery and anti-corruption efforts are a huge priority in the South Asia Region, with many governments trying to strengthen laws and enhance enforcement in both their private and public sectors. As recent high-profile corruption cases in the region have demonstrated, today’s regulators are seeing the issue as a societal problem as much as a legal one.
That’s why Corporate Research and Investigations Limited (CRI Group) partnered with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M), the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Foundation and the Malaysian Youth Council for International Anti Corruption Day to raise awareness throughout Malaysia and beyond of the risks posed by bribery and corruption. Themed “United Against Corruption,” the event, held 9 Dec. 2018 in Kuala Lumpur, placed the focus squarely on stepping up the fight against corruption and helping position Malaysia a leader against fraud in the South Asia region.
United Against Corruption received extensive coverage in the press – including articles in the The Borneo Post, The Sun Daily, The Edge Markets and other outlets, and a video posted on MACC’s YouTube channel – helping to fulfil the goal of increasing awareness among the general public. As reported in The Borneo Post (“International Anti-Corruption Day celebrated nationwide,” 10 Dec. 2018), the event was held in conjunction with the Premier Walk-About Program and “celebrated simultaneously throughout the country to raise public awareness on the dangers of corrupt practices”.
Efforts increase following 1MDB scandal
The high-profile push against bribery and corruption comes just a few years after the 1MDB scandal first hit the news cycles in Malaysia and, eventually, across the world. Malaysia’s state-owned investment fund, 1MDB, was created to attract foreign investment, but instead it triggered a scandal that led to criminal and regulatory investigations that continue today. “A Malaysian parliamentary committee identified at least $4.2 billion in irregular transactions related to 1MDB. In May, Najib was ousted from power in a general election as the scandal fuelled a voter backlash that ended his party’s 61 years of rule. As the investigations continue, Najib faces trial on corruption charges and U.S. prosecutors have implicated at least three senior Goldman Sachs Group Inc. bankers in a multiyear criminal enterprise” (Bloomberg, 2018).
After-effects from the 1MDB case spread far beyond Malaysia and the South Asia region. In the U.S., federal prosecutors announced that one of the implicated former Goldman Sachs bankers had pleaded guilty, with bribery and money laundering charges lodged against a second banker as part of the investigation.
With eyes on Malaysia due to the breadth of the 1MDB scandal, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (Amendment) Act 2018 was passed in April of this year – with a provision on corporate liability. The amended act gives more power to the MACC in fighting corruption in the private sector, with penalties for firms that can now be held liable if their employees commit bribery.
On 25 Sept. 2018, Mohd Nur Lokman bin Samingan, Assistant Commissioner at Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, spoke in Kuala Lumpur at CRI Group’s Anti-Bribery Anti-Corruption (ABAC) Summit 2018, where he explained some of the key objectives of the 2018 Amendment Act. Among them, the new provisions are meant “to encourage business and commercial activities being carried out in a corruption-free environment; to encourage all commercial organisations to take adequate measures in order to prevent corruption in their respective organisations; and to promote better corporate governance and legal compliance by requiring corporations to take proactive roles in preventing corruption”. Mr. Mohd Nur Lokman went on to explain that punishment for bribery and other corrupt acts under the amendment can include fines “of not less than 10 times the sum of value of the gratification which is the subject matter of the offence”, or one million ringgit (whichever is higher) – and can also include imprisonment for a term not exceeding 20 years.
What is clear to everyone, however, is that governments cannot fight the war on corruption alone. It is critical for government organisations to work hand-in-hand with private sector corporations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and nonprofits to change the culture and tolerance level of bribery and corruption along with the legal framework for prosecuting it. In today’s business landscape, companies have found that it is far better to be proactive in the fight against fraud rather than to try to sweep problems under the rug. The problem in years past was a lack of a consistent framework for organisations to follow in efforts to increase their compliance and decrease risk on their own.
ISO 37001 Anti-Bribery Management System
That’s why the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) issued the ISO 37001 Anti-Bribery Management System standard in 2016: to help organisations worldwide increase and measure their efforts against bribery and corruption. As an accredited provider of ISO 37001 training and certification, CRI Group has been helping organisations at every level through measures that include adopting an anti-bribery policy, appointing a person to oversee anti-bribery compliance, training, risk assessments and due diligence on projects and business associates, implementing financial and commercial controls, and instituting reporting and investigation procedures. Experts in CRI Group’s ABAC Centre of Excellence help walk clients through specific requirements and provide guidance for establishing, implementing, maintaining, reviewing and improving an anti-bribery management system. The system can be stand-alone or can be integrated into an overall management system.
CRI Group’s ISO 37001 training and certification process helps companies or government organisations reduce the risk of bribery by establishing, implementing, maintaining and enhancing internal anti-bribery and anti-corruption systems. This comprehensive protocol can:
• Provide needed tools to prevent bribery and mitigate related risks
• Help an organisation create new and better business partnerships with entities that recognise ISO 37001 certified status, including supply chain manufacturing, joint ventures, pending acquisitions and co-marketing alliances.
• Potentially reduce corporate insurance premiums
• Provide customers, stakeholders, employees and partners with confidence in the entity’s business operations and ethics
• Provide a competitive edge over non-certified organisations the organisation’s industry or niche
• Provide acceptable evidence to prosecutors or courts that the organisation has taken reasonable steps to prevent bribery and corruption.
Which organisations need ISO 37001?
ISO 37001 can be used by any organisation, large or small. It specifies a series of common-sense measures to help prevent, detect and address bribery that can benefit organisations of any industry or type. These include adopting an anti-bribery policy, appointing a person to oversee anti-bribery compliance, training, risk assessments and due diligence on projects and business associates, implementing financial and commercial controls, and instituting reporting and investigation procedures.
United Against Corruption helped to bring to the forefront an issue that must remain near or at the top of the priority list for most organisations in the South Asia region. With anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws and regulations changing at a rapid pace, organisations must keep up with the latest compliance requirements. In fact, many South Asia governments are trying to improve on spotty records of prevention and enforcement when it comes to bribery and corruption in both their private and public sectors. That’s why implementing a standard like ISO 37001 – Anti-bribery Management System can be invaluable to organisations that aim to have a comprehensive approach to compliance in this area.
About CRI Group
CRI Group is a world-leading corporate research and investigations organisation. Established in 1990. In 2018 it was the first organisation, globally, to be an accredited certifier of the ISO 37001 anti-bribery management system standard.
For more information on how CRI Group can help you, contact us today.