Drago Kos is Chair of the OECD Working Group on Bribery and a member of IACA’s frequent visiting faculty. He has a long and distinguished record in fighting and preventing corruption, both in his native Slovenia and at the international level.
On 4 and 5 July Mr. Kos will be on campus to share his experiences in the 2017 “Best Of” seminar. In this short conversation with IACA, he gives a glimpse of some of the themes he will discuss with participants over those two days.
Looking at the overall approach of the OECD Working Group on Bribery, will enforcement and monitoring remain the primary focus or will there be engagement too?
Drago Kos: Well, we have a very clear priority which is directed towards enforcement, but we’ve reached a stage where it is clear that we can save a lot of resources if we engage a bit more on the prevention side. Meaning, we have to do everything that we can to motivate countries and to also engage them in preventing bribery. We can see in reports that more and more attention is being paid to this issue. I just hope this trend will continue.
Could you tell us a little about your plans to engage the business sector more in fighting corruption? How do you create incentives for companies rather than just focusing on enforcement?
DK: My goal, and hopefully I’ll manage to convince the group, is that we shouldn’t only give companies softer treatment when they already face the court for bribery offences. We also have to motivate them in a positive way, which means rewarding organizations that put resources into developing effective compliance systems and fighting corruption. There are countries that already have some potential solutions – such as restricting public procurement tenders to companies that already have proper compliance mechanisms in place, or awarding these firms extra points when evaluating bids. A similar concept could be applied to export credits and official development assistance.
But who would judge or evaluate whether companies meet these compliance and anti-corruption standards and whether they are eligible for public contracts?
DK: This is a very complicated issue. In countries that have had responsibility of legal persons in place for a long time and where effective compliance systems are mitigating circumstances, such as in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and Italy, it’s either a prosecutor or a judge who decides if the compliance system in place is a good one. There are also some countries - Peru and Chile, for example - where private companies specialize in assessing the compliance systems of other businesses. However, we are still not convinced this is the best possible solution, because we don’t know how seriously those companies take the criteria or even which criteria they look at in the first place. So this is a question that remains to be answered in the future, but it will be a very important one.
We’ve talked about enforcement and engagement, but what impact can education and training have in the fight against corruption?
DK: A crucial one. What we have to do is start with education at the earliest stages of development of our children, if possible in kindergarten. Additionally, we all have to be reminded again and again that ethics, integrity, and honesty are very important features of our lives. I think that continuous training or refreshment training on those issues is of crucial importance, not only for public sector institutions, but also for private sector organizations and NGOs.
In your “Best Of” seminar at IACA in July, you’ll be addressing the question of whether individuals can achieve anything against corruption. Can they?
DK: I am firmly convinced that they can achieve a lot, because at the end of the day, it is always up to individuals to make decisions. They can make the crucial difference between acting honestly or dishonestly. That’s why in almost all my meetings with the police, the courts, and so on I say it is not only the police or the prosecuting authorities who address situations. It is not only the organizations where they work. It is them, the individuals, who make the decision to act corruptly or not.
You often talk about making progress against corruption in millimetres. Is that optimistic or pessimistic?
DK: I would call it realistic. There are people who claim that the development of new anti-corruption legislation and the establishment of anti-corruption agencies did not help. But we see that so many new laws have been adopted and are being implemented. We see so many anti-corruption agencies being established and being effective. We see that living conditions for people are improving. At the same time, these things are not happening to the extent that we would like to see. So that is why I say you can’t change things or life in kilometres. It is in millimetres, but it is very steady and secure development.
For more information and to register for the “Best Of” seminar with Drago Kos, please click here.