Susty Business

The Ethics Series: Ethics and Compliance Practice as Collective Action Measure against Corruption

The Report is compiled by Siemens Integrity Initiative Nigeria, United Nations Global Compact Network Nigeria, The Nigerian Economic Summit Group and published on 21st – 22nd March, 2013.

The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) implements the Siemens Integrity Initiative in Nigeria (SII). This anti-corruption project is implemented in five other countries with support from the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) Nigeria Network. Recall that the UNGC has ten principles from which it regulates and coordinates private sectors and NGOs, the 10th being Anti-corruption.

This summary is aimed at sharing details of the one-day workshop on Ethics and Compliance in organizations held to sensitize compliance officers in private companies, public sector and NGOs on the need for collective action against corruption and the objectives of the principle itself. The event also included a training on communication on progress for members of the UNGC and prospective companies. The (former) DG of NESG, Dr Frank Nweke II gave a welcome address stressing the need for discussions and shared experiences on fighting corruption in Nigeria. He also commended Siemens for their advocacy for a corruption-free Nigeria considering their past ordeals with corruption scandals. Opening remarks were given by Mrs Olajobi Makinwa, now UNGC Africa Chief, stating that fundamental to the fight against corruption are Ethics and Compliance, explaining that the UNGC is the United Nations’ initiative to encourage businesses to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies. She shared that UNGC was founded in 2000 has over 100 country networks with Nigeria being the most vibrant in the fight against corruption.

“Corruption is the use of public assets for private gain; when an individual or corporate entity offers bribe to government officials to influence public decision-making.” – Ms Olufunmilayo Akande (CFO, Siemens).

The first Presentation, “The Extended Impact of Ethics and Compliance in Business” facilitated by Mr Keith Darcy (E.D Ethics and Compliance Officers Association, USA) was focused on the global view of ethics and compliance, which has been in practice for over 35 years though established as a profession some 25 years. He discussed several scandals within the USA such as Enron, WorldCom, Tyco and several in other countries like Samsung, Bank of China and Shell. He related the 2008 Great Recession period which began in the USA due to poor corporate governance of large companies, citing The Lehman Brothers Holdings scandal of 2008 as one that largely affected the USA. He also shared information on laws, institutions and bodies created to tackle corruption such as the UN Convention against Corruption, the UK Bribery Bill, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) working group. He touched on 21st century risk areas such as internet hacking and cyber threats and emphasized on the need for organisations to have strong corporate cultures that deal with internal corruption.

Mr Keith also discussed “Best Practice Compliance Toolkits for Building Effective Anti-bribery Corruption Operations”; Whistle Blowing Protection policies as seen in OECD Working Group (2009); Quarterly Organization Risk Assessment’ establishment of standards and practices to detect and prevent bribery; and cautioned approach in delegating discretionary authority. He shared that maintaining a corporate culture that embraces these standards is as crucial as setting the guidelines.

There were open space dialogues that discussed topics like “Ethics and Compliance as a vehicle in global anti-corruption efforts”. The need to have a board, internal control and audit departments in the promotion of ethics and compliance was stressed and also the use of external professional and financial support. There was also a mention of the need to have a compliance program in order to prevent or curb violations. Furthermore, the need to strengthen the Nigerian judiciary system on transparency and independence was identified as a key area to solve corruption issues in Nigeria.

Discussion sessions held touched on issues such as MTN’s code of ethics policy and whistle blowing policy which they claimed to be understood by staff and cited instances when suppliers have been dropped due to non-compliance to their ethical principles. Interestingly, MTN’s whistle blower protection plan is called – “Tip off Anonymously” – it is operated in South Africa and managed by Deloitte. When employees report issues, they place calls that connect directly to Deloitte South Africa. Companies were also advised to join initiatives such as the Convention on Business Integrity. External stakeholders also need to be aware of the company’s commitment to curb corruption; documentation and publication shows commitment on the company’s part.

A training on Communication on Progress (COP) was facilitated by Ms Moramay Navarro of the Global Compact office. She gave an overview of the UNGC’s initiative and objectives stating that once an organization signs up for the Global Compact programme, it has made a commitment at the peak of its management structure to carry out all its transactions in the most ethical and upright manner possible.  She shed light on the reporting aspect of the UNGC programme, speaking about the ten principles every member organization is expected to incorporate into their operations. They are expected to give account to stakeholders of how they apply the principles annually; this is usually stated in the firm’s COP report which is uploaded online for public viewing. She also explained the COP template to be used by companies with little experience in COP reporting; alternatively, companies can use the GRI reporting standards showing how the 10 principles were applied. Companies that commit to the programme are expected to share their COP report with the UNGC website within a year of making the commitment.

There is usually a self-assessment tool for member companies to assess if their performance level is on par with the initiative’s main focus areas. When a company fails to send these in annually, they are regarded as NON- COMMUNICATING and may face risk of expulsion from the programme (though in some cases, 30 – 90 day grace periods are given to organisations who face unforeseen obstacles and require extension. The companies are expected to send this request in writing, stating why they cannot meet up with the official deadline).

The rest of the event was spent on demonstrations from MTN and Oando who shared their experiences on working on their COP reports.

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