Foreign firm in Malaysia publishes anti-corruption guidelines booklet

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Benedict Lopez looks at how one firm has come out with policies and a code of ethics on how to counter corruption and bribery.

Globally, the battle against the scourge of corruption is undertaken by many governments. Many multinational corporations and companies too have their own policies and a code of ethics on how to tackle corruption and bribery.

One foreign company based in Malaysia has recently published a booklet for its head office and subsidiaries all over the world, including Malaysia.

I obtained the chief executive officer’s permission to reproduce excerpts from the booklet:

1. What is corruption?

Corruption can take many forms. At the most basic level, corruption involves misuse of power for private gain. Most anti-corruption/anti-bribery laws prohibit promising, giving or paying something of value in order to influence a business outcome or obtain an improper advantage.

The most well-known forms of corruption include bribery, fraud, embezzlement and extortion.

2. What is bribery?

Not just money. It may be related to anything of value, for example:

  • Advantageous treatment, such as special privileges
  • Unusually large or unfair discounts or kickbacks
  • Unusual use of materials, facilities or equipment
  • Promise of future employment
  • Paying or forgiving a debt
  • Special treatment of a relative or favouritism

Zero tolerance towards bribery. You should not offer, authorise, pay out or accept anything of value in return for an improper business advantage. Refuse all offers of bribe and report the situation immediately.

3. Why does it matter?

Corruption hurts everyone. Corruption harms communities, gets in the way of progress and affects public safety, health, education and the environment.

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And it can hurt us too. A solid reputation for ethical behaviour helps us to attract and retain the best people and loyal customers, it supports the communities in an area where we work, and it opens doors for us in markets around the world.

Even offering a bribe is illegal. It doesn’t matter whether any payment is actually made, it is still an offence to offer or promise a bribe.

We take corruption seriously. A single improper act can lead to drastic consequences.

Violations of law may have serious civil and criminal consequences for the company, individual employees and for our business partners.

4. Zero tolerance, No excuses

Didn’t think about it? Of course, people don’t usually mean to break the law. They’re just not used to recognising corruption, thinking about its consequences, and acting in ways that can avoid it.

For example, they might:

  • ignore danger signs
  • turn a blind eye
  • simply go along with ‘the way it’s done here’

Anyone who wants to join or continue to work in the company must comply with these guidelines in combination with relevant local and international laws.

5. Stay alert!

Red flags. Be particularly on your guard if something seems unreasonable about what business or official representatives are saying or offering – for example, if their fee seems too high, details are missing from a contract, or if they refuse to comply with the company’s policies.

High-risk zones. Corruption and bribery are more likely to take place in Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia former Soviet Union republics and Central America. Anyone acting for the company should be observant and particularly vigilant here.

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Keep your eyes open for potential problems and report anything suspicious.

6. Gifts, hospitality and entertainment

Exercise care. Gifts, hospitality and entertainment are sometimes part of business relationships. But never give or receive monetary gifts if there is an expectation of something in return. We also make sure to:

  • Ensure the arrangement is allowed by local law
  • Comply with both parties’ gifts policies
  • Keep gifts reasonable and in compliance with local standards and non-cash
  • Only cover entertainment costs that are reasonable and not too frequent
  • Invite only relevant people to events
  • Pay service providers such as restaurants and hotels directly, preferably with
    company credit card
  • Document all expenses accurately and ask for pre-approval for expensive items

If there’s any doubt, say no. If you’re worried about the appropriateness of a gift, don’t offer or receive it unless you’ve discussed it with your manager.

7. Doing business with government

Special considerations apply. Activities that might be appropriate for companies may be inappropriate or illegal when they involve local or national government.

Proper conduct. Generally, anti-bribery laws prohibit you from bribing – offering, promising or authorising the transfer of anything of value – to a government official or employee in order to improperly obtain or keep business.

Business courtesies or entertainment that might be acceptable when dealing with companies – like paying for meals or drinks – may not be appropriate when working with government officials.

Know the rules. It is your responsibility to know and comply with all relevant national and international laws and regulations that influence your work.

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8. Want to know more

The more you know about corruption, the better you are prepared to deal with it. The following is a list of websites that provide useful anti-corruption, integrity and ethics-related resources:

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Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. An eternal optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits and privileges found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one that he hopes will be realised in his lifetime
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