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Robert Barrington: Yes, not-for-profits have a big role in compliance

Some would argue that not-for-profits have done their job after campaigning for the UK Bribery Act and France’s Loi Sapin II, and indeed for the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, and should now leave compliance to others. 

But I would distinguish three features about the important role not-for-profits can play in the crowded anti-bribery and compliance space.
1. Standard setting. When a not-for-profit publishes guidance or commentaries, it is driven by its mission to reduce bribery and corruption, not by the question of how to achieve the minimum legal compliance. So not-for-profit guidance is likely to set the bar in a  different place. 

Companies, lawmakers and regulators can do what they will with this: but the least that can be said is that it opens up the debate, and at best it results in the adoption of standards that are designed to achieve the intent behind the law and not simply adherence to the letter of the law.
2. Independence. Most advisors will be publishing materials and getting their name out because they want to win business. That’s their job. But what companies often want is an objective and independent view, whether of the regulatory scene, or how to interpret facts, or what is good practice, or how well they are doing against their peers. 

There can be great advantage in hearing those messages from an organization that stands to gain nothing in terms of business or revenues. Likewise, regulators have a proven interest in hearing what independent anti-bribery and corruption experts view as best practice standards and what best works in tackling corruption.
3. Ongoing influence on public policy. Most not-for-profits, in both the anti-bribery and corruption area and other fields, exist more to influence public policy than an individual corporation’s behavior. Companies and industry associations are prodigious lobbyists, but this is self-evidently in their private interests and not the wider public interest (though the two may happily coincide at times). 

From the UK perspective, we certainly would not have a Bribery Act if it were not for groups like Transparency International. In fact, most industry associations consistently lobbied against it. 

The anti-corruption field is moving fast across the world, with new corruption trends, new legislation, changing enforcement patterns, and the emergence of tech-related challenges and solutions. Not-for-profits will be key to analysing and influencing the public policy responses.

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Job Opening at TI-UK

Of course, all of this raises the question of whether not-for-profit organizations have the expertise to set standards, give independent views, and influence public policy in a way that is both in the public interest and takes into account the operational realities for companies. 

The truth is that there are not many anti-bribery and corruption not-for-profits, and those there are have few specialists dedicated to business. That means that a lot of responsibility is concentrated in the hands of a very small number of individuals.
One of those positions has just become vacant. 

The UK chapter of Transparency International, one of the largest in the TI movement across the world, is advertising for a Director of its Business Integrity Programme

Salary: a lot less than the private sector. Requirements: someone who can use their knowledge and experience of the private sector to advance TI’s anti-corruption mission. Rewards: in heaven. Opportunity: huge.


Robert Barrington is Executive Director of the UK chapter of Transparency International. He joined TI in 2008, leading the campaign to secure a new Bribery Act in the UK, and was appointed as Executive Director of TI-UK in 2013. He has a degree from Oxford University, a PhD from the European University Institute, and has held fellowships at Oxford and the University of Sussex’s Centre for the Study of Corruption.

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