13 Sep 2012

NZ firms urged to take bribery and corruption seriously

7:14 am on 13 September 2012

New Zealand firms are being urged to take bribery and corruption seriously, amid a greater crackdown by regulators worldwide.

A survey of bribery and corruption in Australia and New Zealand by Deloitte found exposure to bribery and corruption is on the rise, but many firms are not doing enough to address it.

It found a third of the 400 Australasian respondents, of which almost half came from New Zealand, had operations in high risk countries like China, but nearly half have never assessed the risk of corruption, while a fifth had not discussed it at a management or board level.

Deloitte associate director Lorinda Kelly said that's worrying because if it's not being discussed at a board or management level then companies are not considering where and what their potential exposure to corruption is or whether it is occurring.

Bribery and corruption are not high on many firms' list of priorities, which may be due to New Zealand being considered one of the least corrupt nations in the world by Transparency International.

But more countries, like Mexico and Brazil, are introducing new anti-corruption legislation, while Australia, the US and Britain, are making rules tougher.

Ms Kelly said Britain has offences for failing to prevent bribery, and has widened the scope so a New Zealand firm acting as an agent for a UK company could be caught.

She said the UK Bribery Act came into force in July 2011 and the jurisdiction is much wider than any previous international legislation.

"So any New Zealand business that is now doing business in the UK can come under that jurisdiction or any New Zealand business that acts as an agent for a British business anywhere in the world also falls under the jurisdiction."

Ms Kelly said that's one example of how legislation is changing.

The Serious Fraud Office has said it's actively monitoring the $20 billion rebuilding of Christchurch, saying the prospect of corruption and fraud is high given the amount of money involved.