Survey also reveals finance sector may exert considerable undue influence on regulators

Companies based in emerging economic giants, such as China, India and Russia, are perceived to routinely engage in bribery when doing business abroad, according to a new survey.

Belgian and Canadian firms are seen as least likely to bribe abroad in the 2008 Bribe Payers Index (BPI), by Transparency International. At the other end of the spectrum, Russia ranked last, just below China, Mexico and India.

The BPI also shows public works and construction companies to be the most corruption-prone when dealing with the public sector, and most likely to exert undue influence on the policies, decisions and practices of governments.

Transparency International chair, Huguette Labelle, said: ‘The BPI provides evidence that a number of companies from major exporting countries still use bribery to win business abroad, despite awareness of its damaging impact on corporate reputations and ordinary communities.’

He called for greater enforcement of existing foreign bribery laws and for companies to adopt effective anti-bribery programmes.

‘All major exporting countries should commit to the provisions of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention,’ said Labelle.

Companies in public works contracts and construction; real estate and property development; oil and gas; heavy manufacturing; and mining were seen to bribe officials most frequently. The cleanest sectors, in terms of bribery of public officials, were identified as information technology, fisheries, and banking and finance.

BPI ranks 22 exporting countries by the tendency of their firms to bribe abroad. It is based on the responses of 2,742 senior business executives.

A second ranking evaluates the likelihood of companies to engage in state capture, influencing state policies through private payments. Public works contracts and construction; oil and gas; mining; and real estate and property development were seen as the sectors whose companies were most likely to offend.

The banking and finance sector is seen to perform considerably worse in terms of state capture than in willingness to bribe public officials, meaning that its companies may exert considerable undue influence on regulators.

The sectors where companies are seen as least likely to exert undue pressure on the public policy process are agriculture, fisheries and light manufacturing.

There is little awareness of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention among the senior business executives interviewed.