Corruption can occur in any area of life and the business sector is no exception. According to the World Economic Forum, corruption increases business costs by 10%. It is increasingly important to unite the forces of Estonian companies and send a strong anti-corruption message to the entire business sector and society as a whole. Companies that have joined the Business Integrity Forum share Transparency International's (TI) vision: "A world in which government, politics, business, civil society and the daily lives of people are free of corruption."
The Business Integrity Forum is a successful platform for business cooperation against corruption in France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Sweden. The Forum offers opportunities for affiliated companies to discuss, share information, gain experience and formulate policies.
TI Estonia hopes that all companies joining the Business Integrity Forum will set the goal of creating corruption prevention standards and will implement effective corruption prevention measures.
As members of the Forum, the companies support TI Estonia’s efforts to reduce corruption in society and work to create a transparent and ethical business environment.
By joining the Forum, the company:
● Sets an example to operating to high standards of integrity
● Follows the principles of ethical business and transparency
● Gains the opportunity to learn the best practices from (foreign) experts and colleagues
● Participates in the development of operating to high standards of integrity at the state level
The members of the Business Integrity Forum have access to TI Estonia’s international contact network. The Forum meets regularly and the contribution of members ensures the sustainability of its activities. The activities of the Forum are funded by annual membership fees.
Members of the Business Integrity Forum
What is private sector corruption?
The private sector is mainly seen in the corruption chain as the “bidder”, who initiates a corrupt relationship, for example, in a way where a member of a company's board of directors bribes an official to secure the winning of a public procurement.
It is mistakenly believed that the only manifestation of corruption involving private companies is the bribery of public officials by company representatives in order to win tenders or get affirmative answers. On a global scale, a large proportion of corrupt transactions involving the private sector are corrupt transactions between representatives of private companies, or so-called business-to-business corruption. Transactions are entrusted to employees, whose activities are quite difficult to supervise and often are not even attempted because they do not know how to anticipate the risks involved in contracts. The members of the management body of the represented entity remain unaware of possible corrupt relationships between the representatives that affect the content and terms of the transactions to be entered into.
Therefore, it is important for a company to be aware of the dangers associated with corruption and to try to identify potential areas of risk in its organization.
Regulation concerning corruption in the private sector in Estonia
In § 288 of the Special Part of the Penal Code (KarS), an official is a natural person who holds an official position for the performance of public duties regardless of whether he or she performs the duties imposed on him or her permanently or temporarily, for a charge or without charge, while in service or engaged in a liberal profession or under a contract, by appointment or election.
Giving a bribe to a public official (local government and state official) by a representative of a company is punishable under criminal law, which, in addition to the one giving a bribe, may also result in a criminal punishment for the juridical person he or she represents.
The personal validity of the Penal Code extends to Estonian citizens and juridical persons registered in Estonia even if a bribe is given to a foreign official.
What are the risks?
A financial penalty of 3,200–16,000,000 euros or compulsory dissolution may be imposed on a juridical person for giving, brokering or taking a bribe. A financial penalty may also be imposed on a juridical person as an additional penalty along with compulsory dissolution. In offences relating to competition, a financial penalty of up to 10% of a company's turnover may be imposed.
- Increased costs - products and services can be more expensive because the contracts are not concluded in the best interests of the company
- Decline in reputation - customers, investors and partners do not trust the company
- Various operating restrictions and prohibitions - for example, a company may not participate in public procurement
How can this be prevented?
Having an overview of the risks and being fully aware of them is a prerequisite for developing and implementing the measures necessary to mitigate the risks. A unified and systematic anti-corruption program helps to organize the company's operations in a way where the operations and procedures are as transparent as possible, and each employee knows his or her role in this system. For instance, emphasis should be placed on developing codes of conduct in situations with a high risk of corruption, such as accepting and making gifts, conflicts of interest and communicating with officials.
Transparency International publications are available to provide an overview of the risks and to establish an anti-corruption program.
At the end of 2019, the Ministry of Justice compiled a self-assessment questionnaire, which helps a large or medium-sized company (manager, risk manager, auditor, etc.) to quickly assess whether the company has measures preventing corruption and whether they are effective. There are also tips on how to make your company more resistant to corruption. Only ten questions need to be answered. Answering will take 7 minutes.
You can access the questionnaire here.
Transparency International publications