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International Anti-Corruption Day

December 9 is International Anti-Corruption Day. With the football World Cup well underway in Qatar, it is a topic that has been in the headlines of late.

The decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively has been dogged by accusations of widespread corruption, with two investigations launched by Swiss prosecutors and the US Department of Justice in 2015. All parties denied any wrongdoing and were cleared. However, many of the FIFA executives that made the awards were arrested and discredited. Even the current FIFA president Gianni Infantino has talked about “money disappearing” from the organisation under his predecessor Sepp Blatter.

Qatar has also been condemned for its human rights record with exploitation of migrant workers, oppression of women and criminalising homosexuality. According to the United Nations “preventing corruption unlocks progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, helps protect our planet, creates jobs, achieves gender equality, and secures wider access to essential services such as healthcare and education.”

Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain:

  • Public servants demanding or taking money or favours in exchange for services, contracts etc
  • Politicians misusing public money or granting public jobs or contracts to their sponsors, friends or families
  • Business executives bribing officials to gain favour, contracts etc

ALL internal auditors must be vigilant to it.

Financial institutions spend over £28bn annually on Anti-Money Laundering compliance. Despite this NatWest/RBS were fined £264.8 million in December 2021 for three money laundering offences.

It happens below the radar often enabled by professionals such as bankers, lawyers, accountants, estate agents and procurement executives. Corrupt schemes can be hidden in opaque financial systems and shell companies. And like any good system evolves to take advantage of changes in regulation, legislation and technology.

Transparency International is one of the most well-known organizational faces tackling corruption in countries all over the world. Corruption is global, any notion that it only happens overseas is flawed.

Governments, organisations, citizens, everyone has a responsibility to prevent and oppose corruption, in order to promote resilience and integrity at all levels of society. Internal audit assurance contributes to this.

Prevention is key, with policies and procedures directing appropriate behaviours. But when inappropriate conduct is identified an organisation’s culture should enable colleagues to speak up and report wrongdoing. 

Things to do today

  1. Click here for the Transparency Index; look up the countries your organisation interacts with – suppliers, strategic partners, customers. Are any of concern?
  2. Draw a quick mind map of your organisation’s activities. Are any potentially high risk?
  3. Find out when assurance was last provided on the practices your organisation relies on to prevent corruption. Discuss the merits of including it on the 2023 internal audit plan.

The quarter finals also begin on December 9.

Spare a moment to think about this while cheering on the home nations…fingers crossed England and Wales make it!

Content reviewed: 1 February 2023