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New Standard to Combat Bribery

Across the world over US$1 trillion are paid in bribes every year while an estimated US$2.6 trillion are lost through corruption – a sum equivalent to more than 5 per cent of the global gross domestic product.

According to the United Nations Development Programme, corruption is the single biggest obstacle to economic and social development around the world. In developing countries, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance. Since the passage of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption on 31 October 2003, the United Nations has observed an International Anti-Corruption Day on 9 December to focus minds on this endemic problem.

While corruption may be a fact of life, the leaders of modern Singapore decided at an early stage that corruption should not be a way of life. When Singapore attained self-government in 1959, it made concerted efforts to put an end to corrupt practices. Existing legislation was toughened and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) revamped and given extensive powers under the Prevention of Corruption Act to investigate corruption.

Through strong political will and leadership, supported by effective laws, an independent judiciary, responsive public service and effective enforcement, Singapore successfully cracked the worst of its corruption woes.

Since its inception in 1976, Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) has consistently ranked Singapore as the least corrupt country out of the 16 countries surveyed.

Transparency International, an international non-governmental organisation set up to tackle the issue of corruption around the world, has placed Singapore among the top 10 least corrupt countries globally over the last five years, 2012-2016.

At the CPIB’s 60th anniversary in 2012, Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew said in a statement, “We have succeeded in keeping Singapore clean and corruption free. This requires strong political will, constant vigilance and relentless efforts by CPIB to follow up every complaint and every clue of wrong doing.”

Falling Level
The number of cases registered for investigation by the CPIB fell to an all-time low in 2016. A total of 808 complaints were lodged, and of these, 118 cases or 14.6 per cent of the complaints were registered for investigation – the lowest in 32 years.

Private sector cases continued to account for the majority of corruption cases. In 2016, they made up 85 per cent of all cases registered for investigation.

Notwithstanding the improvements, there is no cause for complacency.

As CPIB’s director Wong Hong Kuan noted, “Corruption will always be a work in progress because of the innate human nature of greed and temptation, and the CPIB remains vigilant to keep Singapore corruption-free.”

There are two potential areas of concern – maintenance work, such as inspection of electrical equipment, removal of copper cables, cleaning and water-proofing service, and in wholesale and retail business, the purchase and supply of items such as fire safety, electrical and mechanical equipment.

The CPIB has added a new arm in its fight against corruption. It has opened a new facility, the Corruption Reporting and Heritage Centre, in Whitley Road. Easily accessible, it encourages people to walk in and give tip-offs of suspected corrupt practices. “The CPIB remains committed and resolute in the fight against corruption and will work closely with the community to eradicate the scourge of corruption in Singapore,” said Mr Wong.

New Anti-Bribery Management Systems
On 14 October 2016, the ISO 37001 Anti-Bribery Management Systems standard was launched to help organisations develop, implement and improve their anti-corruption compliance programmes. Developed by an ISO committee comprising representatives from 61 countries, including Singapore, it is designed to help an organisation, regardless of type, size and nature of activity, prevent, detect and address bribery and comply with anti-bribery laws and voluntary commitments applicable to its activities.

Singapore formally adopted the new standard on 12 April 2017 becoming the second country in the world after Peru. In a joint statement, SPRING Singapore and the CPIB noted, “The voluntary standard that is based on internationally recognised good practices provides guidelines to help Singapore companies strengthen their anti-bribery compliance systems and processes and ensure compliance with anti-bribery laws.”

The national standard, the SS ISO 37001, is similar to the ISO 37001, specifying requirements for:
i. top management leadership and commitment;
ii. anti-bribery policy and procedures, as well as relevant training to personnel;
iii. third party risk assessments and due diligence;
iv. financial, procurement, commercial and contractual controls;
v. reporting, monitoring and investigation procedures;
vi. appropriate remedial measures and continual monitoring and improvement; and
vii. oversight by a compliance manager or function

“With the operating environment becoming more complex, and corruption cases more transnational in nature, adopting the new SS ISO 37001 standard will help Singapore companies safeguard against bribery,” said Mr Wong, who is also the convenor of a working group under the Singapore Standards Council for anti-bribery management systems.

By adopting the standard, SPRING said that firms would gain an “additional stamp of confidence” in their systems and processes to help them grow overseas.

“SPRING will be working with public and private stakeholders to provide assistance in terms of training, consultancy, certification and funding,” said Ms Choy Sauw Kook, assistant chief executive for quality and excellence at SPRING Singapore.

SPRING and the Singapore Accreditation Council are working with relevant stakeholders to develop an accreditation scheme for certification bodies providing SS ISO 37001 certification services.