Give anti-bribery bill teeth

By Rick Arnold
Roseneath, ON
Sent to Embassy Magazine

The Conservative government’s proposed reform of Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act doesn’t go nearly far enough to ensure that Canada’s record will rise above “pathetic” (RE: “Finally, getting serious on bribery,” Feb. 6)

I agree with your editorial’s positive assessment that proposed legislation making it easier to prosecute Canadian firms and individuals for bribery in other countries coupled with longer jail terms for those found guilty, is a move in the right direction.

However, Canadian legislators will need to dig deeper to reflect on the reasons for there being only three CFPOA convictions in 13 years.

Through my involvement in the laying of a CFPOA complaint with the RCMP in March 2010 that relied heavily on the suspect company’s own documentation of illegal payments made to a foreign official, I have become aware of just how justice can be thwarted.

Three years later and this case languishes thanks both to the company’s legal maneuvers and to understaffing at the RCMP Anti-Corruption Units.

It took the RCMP officers 16 months after the complaint was lodged before they raided the corporate headquarters of the company in question.

The CFPOA law before the Senate needs to include a set of ground rules that ensure that those under investigation will face a day of reckoning, sooner rather than later. And while considering the Conservative’s new amendments to the CFPOA, legislators may wish to ensure that a bribery conviction for a corporation does not preclude up to 14 years in jail for the senior executives involved.

Parliamentarians should also be thinking about our eyes and ears overseas as figuring into a more robust CFPOA. Canada’s foreign missions often come across evidence (through local press reports or other sources) of improper payments made to local public officials.

Any new CFPOA legislation should require Canadian embassies and consulates to report in a timely fashion on cases where it is alleged that bribes have been offered or paid to public officials, be it by Canadian individuals or corporations.

Finally, any effort to toughen the CFPOA is virtually meaningless if the federal government doesn’t commit to a dramatic increase in funding for the RCMP Anti- Corruption Units.