Australian Government Set to Take Tougher Stance on Bribery
Australia’s anti-bribery legislation is about to get stronger. After much criticism of its foreign bribery laws by the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention’s Phase Three report, a bill before the Commonwealth Parliament could add a “new books and records offence of intentional or reckless false dealing with accounting documents”.
If passed, the bill will amend the country’s Criminal Code Act by introducing an offence where a person 1) makes, alters, destroys or conceals an accounting document; 2) fails to make or alter an accounting document that the person is under a duty under Australian law to make or alter; or 3) facilitates, conceals or disguises the provision of a benefit not legitimately due.
The amendment would extend to the conduct of foreign subsidiaries of domestic parent companies, their employees and agents. Proposed penalties include 10-year prison sentences and/or fines of up to $1.8 million for individuals, and for corporations, fines the greater of $18 million, three times the value of any benefit provided or 10 percent of the annual turnover in the 12-month period preceding the offence.
In the meantime, the Australian Federal Police continue to investigate and prosecute Australian companies that have allegedly paid bribes. Three of the country’s most notable investigations and scandals include:
- Two Reserve Bank of Australia firms for bribing foreign officials to win banknote contracts
- CIMIC, formerly Leighton Holdings, for alleged payments to win a pipeline contract in Iraq
- BHP Billiton for hospitality offered to government officials for the Beijing Olympics
In the bribery case against two executives at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), police were tipped off by CBA security when suspicious payments into accounts held by the two men were flagged. The anomalous payments were found to have been made by a charitable organization owned by the founder of a software company that was bidding on an IT infrastructure project for the bank.
The increased scrutiny and high price of a scandal highlight the importance of monitoring, flagging and investigating possible bribery. Every company must establish their own screening criteria, but areas worth monitoring include suspicious vendors, withdrawals, deposits, travel and entertainment expenses (T&E) and general ledger activities.
About Andrew Simpson
Andrew Simpson (LinkedIn | Twitter) is Chief Operating Officer at CaseWare RCM and has more than 20 years of experience building businesses in the fields of information systems audit and security, data analytics, Anti-Money Laundering and forensics. He is a regular contributor to conferences and a recognized thought leader in financial crime management.