Friday, 13 July 2012
Anti-corruption reporting better but still room for improvement—insurers score poorly in study
The world’s largest publicly-traded companies are better at reporting on their anti-corruption programmes than in the past. But multinationals still need to do much more to increase transparency in reporting on their operations, according to a new study published by anti-corruption group Transparency International this week.
Transparency in Corporate Reporting: Assessing the World’s Largest Companies report
The study also found that financial companies, including banks and insurers, are among the worst offenders despite the big regulatory and political focus on the financial sector since the credit crisis hit.
‘Transparency in Corporate Reporting: Assessing the World’s Largest Companies’ scored 105 of the top publicly-traded companies based on their public commitment to transparency.
Company scores ranged from 0 to 10, where 0 is the least transparent and 10 is the most transparent. The scores were based on public availability of information about anti-corruption systems, transparency in reporting and the amount of financial information the companies provide for each country in which they operate.
Overall, Transparency International found that companies showed improvement in their reporting on their commitments to anti-corruption programmes compared to its last study of the same companies carried out in 2008.
“Multinational corporations can and must play a significant role in the global fight against corruption. As the world continues to recover from the deep economic pain of 2008, the leadership at more companies must commit to stopping corruption,” said Transparency International’s Chair, Huguette Labelle.
Norway’s Statoil was the highest scoring company with a score of 8.3. TI said that Statoil discloses ‘significant’ information about its anti-corruption programmes, subsidiaries, taxes and profits across its 37 countries of operations.
But the study found that reporting by banks and insurers on transparency measures underperformed ‘across the board’. This is despite the fact that ‘opaque’ company structures played a big role in the recent financial crises and in spite of a significant focus on fixing the lack of transparency in this sector. The 24 financial companies included in the report scored an average of 4.2, said TI.
“If country-level financial information is not adequately disclosed, it is difficult to know how operations in many developing countries contribute to local governments. Experience has shown that the requirement to report encourages companies to build strong management systems supporting disclosures, and in the process improves their anti-corruption systems,” said Jermyn Brooks, Chair of Transparency International’s Business Advisory Board.
A lack of transparency makes it harder to identify where companies earn profits, pay taxes or contribute to political campaigns, commented the group. The study found that about half of the companies evaluated do not disclose information about political contributions.
“The multinational companies remain an important part of the problem of corruption around the world. The time has come for them to be co-leading the solutions. For this they need to dramatically improve,” said Cobus de Swardt, Managing Director of Transparency International.
Transparency International called on companies to fight corruption by disclosing more information about how they mitigate corruption and by making public how they are organised and how monies flow in the countries in which they operate.
“Only with this level of information can citizens the world over know how much money flows into public budgets, a key issue of accountability for governments everywhere,” stated TI.
Governments and regulators should make transparency obligatory for all companies that seek export subsidies or compete for public contracts, said the group. “Investors should demand greater transparency in corporate reporting to ensure both ethical, sustainable business growth as well as sound risk management,” it added.
Last month TI published another report that found that no country is immune to corruption and focused on the damaging effects it has for citizens and society across Europe.
The group said that corruption is ‘undermining confidence’ in national institutions and contributing to a sustained economic crisis.
This study found that three quarters of Europeans consider corruption to be a growing problem in their societies. TI concluded that gaps in governance continue to ‘plague’ European countries’ attempts to pull the region out of its ongoing economic crisis.
TI used the two-year project to analyse over 300 institutions in 25 countries.
The group said that it used its ‘tried and tested’ National Integrity System to gauge the capacity and effectiveness of a range of institutions—from political parties, the police and the judiciary, to the media and civil society—in their contribution to national anti-corruption efforts. These in-depth national studies formed the basis of the regional report released on June 6 in Brussels.
The report highlighted strengths and weaknesses in individual states, but also found commonalities shared by many European countries.
“For instance, 19 of the 25 countries surveyed have not yet regulated lobbying, while currently only 10 ban undisclosed political donations. Four-fifths of the states covered in the report present obstacles to citizens seeking access to information, while 17 of the countries lack codes of conduct for their parliamentarians,” stated TI.
“Fighting corruption needs to come from the top and that is where Europe fails the test,” said Mr de Swardt last month.
The report offers targeted recommendations for reform. Ultimately, it aims to help key European actors identify and then plug the integrity gaps which enable corruption to grow, explained TI.