In the recent years, the Middle East region has witnessed an increased focus by both regulators and businesses on anti-corruption compliance. The region’s organisations are under immense pressure from government bodies, regulators and international business partners, to demonstrate anti-corruption policies and best practices.
With that in mind, ethiXbase held our inaugural UAE Anti-Bribery & Corruption Executive Forum which was well attended by more than 60 senior legal and compliance professionals representing both local and international organisations with presence in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The panel discussions, moderated by Leas Bachatene, CEO, ethiXbase featured five industry leaders within the field of legal and compliance in the Middle East and North Africa region: Hassan Nasser, Director of Compliance, Dubai Multi Commodities; Dr Khalid D. Faddagh, Former Chief Audit Executive and Board Audit Committee Secretary, Saudi Aramco; Nirav Mehta, Compliance Geographic Programme Leader, Ethics and Integrity, Middle East & Africa, Johnson Controls; Patrick Bourke, Head of Middle East Solicitor, Norton Rose Fulbright; Dr Sven Klaiber, Regional Compliance Officer, ThyssenKrupp.
Opening the event Leas Bachatene, CEO of ethiXbase stated “Through the course of our experience in dealing with organisations in the Middle East, we have discovered that non-financial sector organisations often struggle to put in place a robust compliance framework – hence, we have decided to hold this event today, here in the Middle East to help organisations grasp a deeper understanding of the risk and how they can better mitigate them”. The stage was now set for subsequent panel discussions where engaging debates ensued amongst delegates regarding the topic of anti-corruption compliance.
FCPA & UKBA: Are you exposed?
The first expert panel featured Dr Khalid Faddagh and Patrick Bourke. They discussed the challenges for organisations in the Middle East to ascertain if they are exposed to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the UK Bribery Act (UKBA). This resulted in a debate amongst delegates on whether only international organisation with presence in the Middle East were exposed to the FCPA and UKBA. The discussion and examination of the Petrobras case brought about a conclusion from our expert panel that reviewing and bench-marking their internal policies and framework along with their business’ operational functions accompanied with legal advice can help organisations determine if they are exposed to the FCPA or the UKBA.
Panel 1: FCPA & UKBA: Are you exposed?
Who in your firm is most exposed to bribery and corruption?
The risk of bribery and corruption is apparent to any business but the likelihood of certain members of staff being exposed can be higher than others within the organisation. This session was best summed up by Dr Sven when he explained that, bribes are often paid with the knowledge of senior management and because they are in the position of power, it leaves them frequently exposed to bribery and corruption. Client/Customer facing employees are the next group of personnel that are susceptible to these offenses. Sales representatives involved in bribery and corruption remains the most common scenario today. Due to the nature of their jobs, this group are in constant interaction with their potential clients who may offer or take bribes in order to obtain a business deal. Similar to client facing personnel, procurement personnel are also likely to be susceptible to bribery due to the business relationships they have with their third parties and supply chain.
The second expert panel which also featured the likes of Hassan Nasser and Patrick Bourke concluded that compliance, audit and legal functions can mitigate these risks by building a robust compliance and ethics framework and provide training and create awareness of the severity of improper business conduct carried out by an employee.
What does anti-corruption due diligence really mean?
Very often it is wrongly perceived that due diligence is a process required to be done only once. Our panel in this final session could not disagree more. Nirav Mehta, Johnson Controls mentioned this session’s defining statement: “Anti-corruption due diligence is actually an ongoing process.” Due diligence encompasses ongoing communications with third parties on the mother company’s policies, procedures and code of conduct and conducting regular on-going checks and monitoring of high-risk suppliers. The level of due diligence is not only done on the financial or legal background of an organisation, but also on the individuals within the target organisation. It was highlighted that 75% of Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the UAE are family owned businesses, as such it opens the door to bribery and corruption because of the connections that family members may have with other relatives of other businesses, and even with government officials. It is thus vital, that companies declare such relationships, and keep themselves updated on relevant details to protect themselves and avoid allegations of corruption.
Engaging forum ends with networking session
During this time, delegates made use of the closing stages of the event to exchange views on the most pertinent issues relating to anti-corruption compliance in the UAE. The lunch and networking session at the Media Rotana Dubai provided the perfect ending to what was a very successful 1st UAE Anti-Bribery & Corruption Executive Forum.
If you would like to learn more about how ethiXbase can support your Middle East anti-corruption programme, please contact Hassan Al-Helo at Hassan.firstname.lastname@example.org.