Fighting corruption across sectors and borders

M.A.P. Insights
Greg Navarro

Posted on December 15, 2015

During the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit here in Manila, we at Deloitte had the pleasure of working with the US APEC Business Coalition in hosting an anti-corruption breakfast forum entitled “Creating ethical cultures through APEC cooperation: Lessons from the Philippines.” The forum was a venue for private and public sector leaders from the Asia-Pacific region to share ideas and successes in fighting corruption and upholding the principles of good governance. The event was inspired by the work that APEC member countries started in Beijing last year, when the APEC Network of Anti-Corruption Authorities and Law Enforcement Agencies (ACT-NET) held its first meeting. ACT-NET was established to enhance informal cross-border cooperation between agencies responsible for investigations and prosecutions of corruption, bribery, money laundering, and illicit trade.

Our forum was opened by US Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews, whose colleagues at the US State Department were integral in establishing ACT-NET.

For his part, Mr. Andrews and his team are helping combat corruption through the APEC SME Working Group, which recently launched a business ethics initiative in the medical device, biopharmaceuticals, and construction-engineering sectors.

As Mr. Andrews mentioned in his opening remarks, smaller companies are the most harmed by corruption, the global cost of which is estimated by the World Bank at approximately $1 trillion annually. Many small businesses cannot afford to pay huge bribes to participate in the contracting process, and, as a result, are unfairly sidelined.

The Department of Commerce led the drafting of three sets of ethics principles that now form the foundation of each new code of ethics established in APEC economies. Recently, stakeholders from the local public and private sectors worked together to draft a new code of ethics for the medical device and biopharmaceuticals sectors. For this effort, APEC recognized the Philippines with the Lighthouse Award for Business Ethics -- proof that good work is being done here in combating corruption.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales had more good news for the attendees when she shared some of her office’s anti-corruption initiatives.

The Investment Ombudsman Program, which was launched in June 2014 to address the recurring problems encountered by the business sector when dealing with government, has so far received 62 complaints, all of which have been acted upon.

During this year’s Integrity and Anti-Corruption Week, which ran from Dec. 7 to 11, the Office of the Ombudsman launched a five-year national anti-corruption plan that is meant to hold beyond this administration’s tenure. It’s something to look forward to, especially for those who worry about the continuity of Daang Matuwid.

We were pleased to have among our speakers Dr. Jesus Estanislao, who is acknowledged as our local good governance guru; veteran journalist Maria Ressa, who spoke about her own battle against corruption in the media sector; Integrity Initiative co-chair Ramon del Rosario, Jr., who talked about what the private sector has achieved so far in this fight; and Juan Francisco Raffo, APEC Business Advisory Council Chairman in 2016, who shared some of his experiences and challenges in fighting corruption in his home country and invited everyone to the APEC meeting in Peru next year.

While everyone agreed that great strides have been made in fighting corruption, they also pointed out that we -- the Asia-Pacific region as a whole -- have a long way to go still.

I take no pleasure in pointing out that in the first World Impunity Index released by the Impunity and Justice Research Center of Universidad de las Americas in Mexico, the Philippines, among 59 countries, emerged as one of those with the worst record in bringing wrongdoers to justice. And the researchers pointed out that impunity leads to worsening corruption.

Mr. Raffo intends to continue our good governance and anti-corruption dialogue when the APEC Summit moves to Peru next year. To paraphrase Ombudsman Morales’s remarks at the forum, if we apply a multi-sectoral, global approach to fighting corruption, then the spirit of good governance and integrity will triumph.

I would like to thank the following organizations for supporting the anti-corruption forum: the Management Association of the Philippines (M.A.P.), COMEX Peru, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Institute for Solidarity in Asia, Institute of Corporate Directors, Integrity Initiative, Judicial Reform Initiative, Makati Business Club, US Council for International Business, and the US National Center for APEC.

Greg Navarro is the Managing Partner & CEO of Navarro Amper & Co., the Philippine member firm of Deloitte Southeast Asia, and the 2014 President of the M.A.P.