The Collins English dictionary defines corruption as “dishonesty and illegal behaviour by people in positions of authority or power”. The negative impact of corruption goes beyond the immediate individuals who are affected by a specific incident. Corruption may also affect those who work for the organisation where the corruption took place due to the organisation’s reputation being affected. It can also compromise community trust in government and public officials. The public may lose confidence that public institutions are working for their best interests. Furthermore, corruption can waste taxpayers’ money. As a result, the public may receive poorer services and infrastructure than they would have otherwise.
What are the effects of corruption?
Corruption can negatively affect individuals, organisations and the community.
Individuals who are implicated in corrupt activity:
- may be charged with criminal offences;
- may have relationships that are ended or damaged due to corruption;
- may face disciplinary action or termination of employment;
Companies or organisations
Companies and organisations involved in corrupt activity may be affected in the following ways.
- Resources of the company may be taken away from its core business. As a result, there may be losses to the company or organisation;
- Companies may face increased oversight from regulatory bodies and may need to allocate resources to attend to this. This again may divert attention away from the company’s core business;
- They may experience financial losses;
- Employee satisfaction and morale may be affected; and
- The reputation of the organisation may be damaged;
The impacts of corruption on the wider community include the following.
- Honest and upstanding businesses may lose out on contracts due to corrupt practices of other businesses;
- The community may lose respect and trust in public bodies;
- Funds sourced from tax-payers may be wasted;
- Doods and services that otherwise would have been available may be lost.
Australia is considered one of the world’s least corrupt countries. Transparency International, a global alliance that seeks an end to corruption, ranks Australia as the twelfth least corrupt nation in the world. However, despite this, this body has identified some corruption risks in areas such as Australia’s Natural Resources sector. In addition, the International Corruption Perception Index has suggested that corruption in Australia has increased in the last decade.
Foreign bribery and corruption
Australia is a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. These treaties require member states to criminalise bribery of foreign public officials in the context of international business. Australia is also subject to ongoing progress reports from these bodies and is still being called to do more to enforce laws against foreign bribery and corruption.
There are federal and state laws in Australia that criminalise corruption.
Australian Laws Against Corruption
Section 70 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) contains the federal law in relation to foreign officials. This section makes it a crime to bribe a foreign official to gain or retain a business benefit. Similarly, sections 141 and 142 of the Act make it illegal to bribe a Commonwealth public official.
Each state and territory in Australia has its own law that criminalises corruption:
- In New South Wales section 249B of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) makes it a crime to receive or solicit a corrupt commission;
- In Victoria section 176 of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) makes receiving soliciting secret commissions a crime;
- In South Australia section 150 of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 makes it a crime to bribe a fiduciary;
- In Queensland sections 442B to 442BA of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) makes it illegal to receive a secret commission;
- In Western Australia sections 529 to 530 of the Criminal Code (WA) prohibits agents corruptly receiving or soliciting rewards;
- In the Australian Capital Territory sections 356 to 357 of the Criminal Code 2002 (ACT) makes bribery a criminal offence;
- In the Northern Territory section 236 of the Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) makes it an offence to receive or solicit secret commissions.
Bodies responsible for investigating and prosecuting corruption
In Australia, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and state and territory police all are responsible for investigating various bribery and corruption offences. Once investigations are completed, they are referred to the relevant federal, state or territory prosecutions department. This department makes determinations about whether to pursue a prosecution for bribery or corruption through the courts.
There are also independent commissions in several states who investigate potential corruption cases relating to public officers such as public servants and police. These are:
- The New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC);
- The Victorian Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC);
- The Victorian Corruption and Crime Commission;
- The Queensland Corruption and Crime Commission;
- The South Australian Independent Commissioner Against Corruption;
- The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity
A new Commonwealth Integrity Commission is due to be established in the near future.
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