Bribery harms free competition - Federal Economics Ministry informs about ban on foreign bribery
The Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) and the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) today held a joint conference entitled "Preventing corruption - foreign bribery and liability risks for SMEs" at the Federal Economics Ministry. During the conference, the representatives from industry, civil society and politics pointed out the advantages of taking a clear stand against corruption in transactions with other countries.
The State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, Dr. Bernhard Heitzer, stated: "The German government and German companies have a great common interest in global trade that remains free from bribery. Many of our companies have made major efforts in recent years to prevent corruption and have clearly spoken out against shady business deals. The German government is pushing for greater harmonisation of international rules on combating corruption in international business transactions. We will only be able to create a level playing field for competition if all trading partners pull in the same direction."
Together with its international partners, Germany is working to combat bribery worldwide. A ban on the bribing of foreign public officials has been in force in Germany since 1999. In addition to dealing with the scope of this ban, the discussions at the conference centred on potential measures that companies could take to prevent corruption and to protect themselves against liability claims due to acts of corruption.
Dieter Schweer, member of the Executive Board of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), said: "Corrupt companies weaken the ability of the economic system to function smoothly and undermine public acceptance of the social market economy. Corruption makes a small number of individuals rich at the expense of many. Corruption means that contracts are awarded to companies that offer comparatively expensive and low-quality services. However, companies which would win a public tender if it were carried out in an objective and transparent manner stand to lose if corruption is present."
Stephan Wernicke, Head of the Legal Department at the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce, added: "The business community is a reliable partner in combating corruption because corruption distorts competition and destroys trust. To be able to act in accordance with the law, companies need clarity on the actions for which they would be liable for prosecution. Compliance requirements have to be designed in such a way that it is feasible for SMEs to meet them. In addition, German companies need government support to ward off corrupt demands abroad."
The fight against corruption is continuously gaining in importance in global trade. In 1997, the OECD member countries jointly agreed on punishing the bribing of foreign public officials in international business transactions. According to estimates by the World Bank, the annual damage caused by corruption amounts to at least a trillion US dollars.