28 February 2018
Like many with an interest in the global blight of corruption, we look forward to the annual release of Transparency International’s (TI)1 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI)2.

The launch of the 2017 CPI results was held in Melbourne last week at Baker McKenzie where commentary about the results was provided by Serena Lillywhite, CEO of TI Australia.

From Australia’s perspective, the news was not good. Whilst we maintained our ranking of 13, our score dropped another 2 points from last year to 77. Over the six years from 2012 to 2017, our score has dropped by a total of eight points. The chart below shows this steady decline quite clearly.

Transparency International Australia CPI Chart 2012-2017

Our neighbours, New Zealand, topped the chart as the least corrupt country in the world. Giving credit where credit is due, they seem to do a lot right.
 
Counter to Australia’s decline, the UK has shown a steady improvement in its CPI score over the last six years, a total increase of eight points from 74 in 2012 to 82 in 2017.


 
The introduction of the UK Bribery Act and subsequent enforcement actions, e.g. the Rolls Royce settlement, in large part, together with significant political will, seem to be responsible for this improvement.
 
As much of the media about the current CPI ratings suggests, many countries, including Australia, have been slow to act in implementing meaningful measures to better deal with corruption. This has occured despite having the benefit of the FCPA and UK anti-corruption experience for a long time now. One would think that taking the best elements of these legislation and their enforcement regimes would have been a common sense approach to quickly lift our standards to globally accepted levels. Alas, we seem to be slow learners.
 
On a positive note, and despite it's snail-like pace, our move to more effective legislation and enforcement is happening. Hopefully, new legislation that will introduce an offence for an organisation that fails to prevent bribery (reflecting the UK legislation) and associated provisions is imminent.
 

A Federal Independent Anti-Corruption Agency?

An interesting point raised at last week’s CPI launch was that countries like New Zealand and the UK do not have a Federal independent anti-corruption agency. So, do we need one as advocated by TI and other parties?

Given our consistent slide in the CPI rankings over the last six years, fuelled by a range of scandals and an overall decrease of trust in institutions such as government3, the arguments against having such a body are becoming less and less compelling.
 
However, the non-committal recommendation by the Senate Select Committee on a National Integrity Commission that ‘…the Commonwealth government gives careful consideration to establishing a Commonwealth agency with broad scope and jurisdiction to address integrity and corruption matters.’4, does not suggest that this will occur anytime soon.
 

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