By Lisa Armstrong
While Alan L. Boeckmann was working in South Africa early in his career at Fluor, a Texas-based engineering company, he found that corruption was simply a part of doing business. “I promised myself that were I ever in a position to do something about this problem, I would,” said Boeckmann in a 2008 speech.
He made good on his word in 2003, when, as then-chief executive of Fluor, he helped to found the Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI) as part of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
This global initiative was designed for companies, by companies, to help them collectively fight against corruption.
ZERO TOLERANCE OF CORRUPTION
Companies that vie for government contracts are particularly vulnerable to corruption, as they are often asked to pay bribes by government officials in order to win bids. Some try to gain an unfair advantage through graft and, as a result, quite a few have been engulfed by scandals in recent years. But businesses are also victims of corruption. According to the United Nations, corruption increases the cost of doing business by up to 10 percent, on average.
This is one of the reasons that chief executives from Fluor and other companies in the global engineering and construction sector, which handle a number of government contracts, were inspired to start PACI. Chief executives of 19 companies signed up in 2003; today PACI has 168 member companies worldwide, including Microsoft Corporation, The Coco-Cola Company and Ernst & Young.
When businesses join PACI, they have to develop a program and institute a company-wide zero tolerance policy against corruption. For example, at Microsoft all employees, vendors and directors must comply with the anti-corruption laws of the countries in which the company does business. PACI members also assist each other with implementing and enforcing anti-corruption programs.
“It’s easy to write a program and stick it on a website or notice board, but much more difficult to embed in a company,” said Arthur Wasunna, head of PACI. “We don’t just help companies write up the program, we also bring in companies that have gone further down the road to help the ones that have recently joined.”
IT TAKES A PARTNERSHIP
Companies also take the initiative to lead anti-corruption efforts that involve government, nongovernmental groups (NGOs), donor agencies and the media. This approach known as “collective action” is promoted by the World Bank Institute, the United Nations and other organizations. For example, Transparency Mexico, an NGO, Mexico’s Secretary of Public Safety and bidding companies set up an integrity pact and designated an external monitor that ensured that the bidding process for property insurance services was transparent and fair. And in Nigeria, a partnership among major businesses, NGOs and a government agency certifies compliance of its business members with integrity and transparency principles.
PACI is currently working on a pilot program with the host government in an Asian country where businesses were being asked for bribes to get goods through customs.
“We came up with some ideas — [government] paying customs officers a living wage, which would decrease the propensity of them asking for bribes, and computerizing the [customs] system,” Wasunna said.
PACI members believe that businesses, governments and organizations working together can dramatically reduce corruption around the world.
“We find there are certainly ways to shine a light on corruption where it exists [and] to begin to put pressure on the right places,” Lee Tashjian, Fluor vice president of corporate affairs, said. PACI companies and their partners have done a good job of getting rid of corruption, though there is obviously still work to be done, he added.
Lisa Armstrong is a freelance writer.