Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) José Miguel Insulza has emphasized that businesses have a responsibility in the fight against corruption and advocated the criminalization of national and transnational bribery.
Secretary General Insulza, speaking at the “Second Conference on the Progresses and Challenges in Hemispheric Cooperation against Corruption,” which opened Tuesday in Cali, Colombia, declared that “The private sector is part of the problem and it must be part of the solution,” an OAS press release quoted him as saying.
In that light he suggested that efforts must be joined in a model of public-private shared responsibility so that measures are adopted to prevent businesses from bribing national and foreign officials.
Also participating in the conference organized by the OAS was the Vice President of Colombia Angelino Garzón.
At the event’s opening, Secretary General Insulza highlighted that in the activities being developed by the OAS in the framework of the fight against corruption “we have always drawn inspiration from a participatory model that allows for collaborative efforts among those who wish to contribute to a solution to this problem, which affects all of us and only benefits a few corrupt people.”
Addressing some 300 participants, Insulza was joined by OAS Secretary for Legal Affairs, Jean-Michel Arrighi, and Director of the OAS Department of Legal Cooperation, Jorge García González.
The Secretary General asserted that, “While states should take the necessary measures, such as the criminalization of national and transnational bribery, businesses must strengthen or establish their own internal mechanism controls that contribute to eradicate this practice as a way to gain access to the state’s concessions.”
The head of the OAS then called on the business sector to understand that “probity and transparency in state contracting, in addition to being a legal imperative and a social good for the citizenry and the international community, also benefits them by providing the opportunity to compete under objective and equal conditions.”
Referring to the Mechanism For Follow-up on the Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption (MESICIC), the head of the hemispheric organization explained that it is an instrument “of an intergovernmental character, but with broad spaces for participation by civil society,” that is in charge of supporting the member states in the implementation of the Convention’s dispositions, and that serves as a forum for the exchange of information and reciprocal cooperation.
The Secretary General also referred to the protection of whistleblowers of acts of corruption, stating that “if we wish for public officials and citizens in general to fulfill this duty, the least we can do is offer them protection from the intimidations of those that embezzle the public treasury.”
He also emphasized the importance of providing them tranquility, workplace stability, and guaranteeing their physical integrity and that of their families.
“I am certain that the contributions to come out of this conference, which constitutes a forum for the exchange of information and experiences of our countries in the common cause of fighting corruption will allow us to continue to strengthen even more the hemispheric cooperation to achieve greater efficiency in the probity and transparency in public management, prevention and detection of corruption and punishment of the corrupt,” he concluded.
Meanwhile Colombia’s Vice President Garzón referred to the importance of taking the fight against corruption to multilateral levels.
“The international community, through the OAS, has to place in its agenda how to cooperate, how to help and how to demand much more to the states in everything regarding the fight against organized crime, including the fight against corruption and for transparency,” he said.
Garzón noted also how corruption affects democracy upon asserting that “everything that is illegal goes against the defense of democratic values, which is what identifies us. What is needed is to redouble the common efforts of the state, society and the international community to secure the roads of democracy and to defeat violence, illegality, corruption and impunity, because if we stop from making progress, they end up undermining the democratic life of any country.”
Upon referring to the issue of accountability, the Vice President of Colombia recalled that when a leader is elected by the citizenry, this acquires the right of demanding accountability and knowing how public resources are administered.
“Hence the practice of accountability, of social dialogue, of building agreements with civil society, of providing all the mechanisms so there is greater transparency in the exercise of government and contracting is very important, and it is a good road so that society can recognize one as leader,” he declared.
Spoils of war
The number two in the Colombian Government agreed with Secretary General Insulza in the vision of the relation of the public sector with the private sector, and added that the entrepreneur must understand that “the state is not a spoils of war” and that “the practice of bribery and of trying to corrupt public officials does a lot of harm to society, and even conspires against the right of private property, because bad governments end up devaluing private property.”
Garzón, a member of the cabinet of President Juan Manuel Santos, also advocated for the construction of a public-private relationship ethics and for the strengthening of entrepreneurial ethics.