By Leas Bachatene, CEO of ethiXbase
In part 1 of this series I discussed our recent focus on socio-economic, political, transparency and anti-corruption throughout Southeast Asia. In fact, these issues had been clear and driving forces behind both my interview on the BBC and our 1st Asia Pacific Ethics and Compliance Summit on January 21st. The summit provided a platform for ASEAN and its leaders to engage in continuous market education and a pro-active dialogue, as the region takes its first steps into a newly established ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).
In part 2 of this series I would like to take a deeper look at some of the key elements and challenges that we discussed at the summit to a unified ethics and compliance framework in ASEAN. This is crucial as the region enters a phase of transition in what many consider to be a historical milestone for this 49-year-old organisation.
Many had put forth the idea of developing a single unified ASEAN Anti-Corruption Commission when the AEC blueprint was first established in November 2007. At the 1st Asia Pacific Ethics and Compliance Summit I was fortunate enough to moderate our first session comprised of representatives from anti-corruption commissions from Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. During this lively and informative session, we discussed how realistic the idea of a unified ASEAN really is, particularly in the context of anti-corruption compliance. The panellists discussion centred primarily on the challenge to establish a unified ASEAN anti-corruption commission solely because of the present existence of multiple jurisdictions, each governed by a different set of ideals and principles.
It was agreed that what would be deemed more realistic is an ASEAN anti-corruption cooperation. Taking reference from the OECD’s working group, it was granted that for this to work, a well thought out mechanism must be established and fine-tuned to ensure that such multilateral cooperation could exist in a singular framework. If such a framework is indeed to be established, a thorough re-assessment of the existing boundaries and the definition of what constitutes a bribery or corruption crime within ASEAN is required, this is all the more important when we see that corruption is not one of the 8 key areas considered as a transnational crime within ASEAN. For this to happen, I personally believe that there needs to be continuous cooperation between members of the ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC) – most importantly the alignment of transparency in the form of the exchange of intelligence and information between member nations. This will in turn allow for a more cohesive and all-inclusive ASEAN anti-corruption framework to be developed.
Moderated a panel session consisting of distinguished speakers from various ASEAN anti-corruption commissions
Delegates were able to gain valuable insights about the future of ASEAN with the establishment of the AEC and TPP
If it is granted that establishing a unified ASEAN Anti-Corruption Framework is the way forward, what are some of the key factors that ASEAN leaders need to consider? For a start assessment. A thorough gap analysis would need to be carried out at the initial stages. This would include assessing the requirements of the new framework, such as location specific risks, dealing with government officials and state owned enterprise, agents, third parties and even on an organisations’ internal hiring processes. This is followed up by communication. Senior management along with internal and external stakeholders should engage in pro-active dialogue and continuous communication, this is vital in order to communicate what this potential new regime will bring in and what risk organisations may face when going into new markets. Education is then required to equip employees and stakeholders with an appropriate practical tool kit on how to best deal with bribery and corruption risks and events, such as reporting monitoring, reporting and escalating. Most importantly, training and education of the highest standards must be developed and made available to the ACC’s officers and representatives, as they will hold the greatest responsibility in ensuring that the AEC is ran in the most transparent and ethical manner to ensure greater economic sustainability for ASEAN.
While the road ahead for unified ASEAN is by no means smooth, the benefits and economic strength that the region stands to gain is limitless. A fully established AEC initiative would enhance the entire business environment for both organisations and individuals. The initiative underpins a lot of what will and should happen; be it enhancing business confidence, establishing new markets, enhancing trade and investment, improving integrity and governance as well as the ongoing discussions between the public and private sectors. The greater transparency and accountability that will be required to ensure a fully established AEC initiative will boost confidence in ASEAN and in turn create an environment for growth and enhancement.
As mentioned in Part 1 of this series I myself am an ASEAN optimist, a view shared by our expert panel. Each of us agree that a unified, cohesive ASEAN framework, encapsulating robust anti-corruption compliance standards will benefit the region. But, like many, we are in unison when agreeing that the establishment of this initiative will have its fair share of challenges and details that are required to be ironed out by ASEAN leaders. The future indeed looks bright for the region – slowly, but surely we will get there.
In the next edition of the blog series covering the 1st Asia Pacific Ethics and Compliance Summit, we focus on the socio-economic ramifications of corruption and the role that corporates can play through embracing ethical responsibilities. We hope you enjoy some of the photos from the event and welcome any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leas Bachatene is Chief Executive Officer of ethiXbase and chairs the Ethical Alliance Advisory Council. Having devoted his career to compliance he is an avid supporter of furthering anti-corruption initiatives both in ASEAN and across the globe. To learn more about Leas and ethiXbase please visit ethixbase.com.