The internationally recognised anti-bribery standard, ISO 37001, should be made a mandatory requirement for vendor registration in the Sultanate, according to a Muscat-based forensic audit expert. Jose Chacko , Partner – Forensic Technology Services, Crowe Horwath Oman, said the universally accepted standard, if adopted in the Sultanate, would further reinforce the government’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards bribery and corruption. “ISO 37001 provides the best practices and global framework to fight bribery and other fraudulent practices, said Chacko. “It deals with both active and passive bribery – that is promising or offering and receiving and accepting. Also included in the scope of this standard are facilitation payments and grease payments.”
The ISO 37001 standard, according to the forensic audit expert, is designed to help an organisation establish, implement, maintain and improve an anti-bribery compliance programme across geographies and jurisdictions and has the flexibility to be scaled for small businesses and large corporations. First published in October 2016 by the Geneva-based International Standards Organisation (ISO), ISO 37001 has been billed as the latest weapon available in the fight against bribery and corruption — twin menaces that risk placing serious impediments to economic development and business and social investment all over the world, says Jose. Citing World Bank estimates, the forensic audit specialist warned that businesses and individuals pay an estimated $1.5 trillion in bribes each year, representing around 2 per cent of global GDP.
“Total economic loss from corruption and bribery will be many multiples of this. In many countries, legal systems demonstrate that corruption and bribery will not be tolerated in any form and will be punished severely. Corruption hurts the poor disproportionately by diverting funds intended for development, undermining a Government’s ability to provide basic services, feeding inequality and injustice and discouraging foreign cooperation and investment. Corruption is a key element in economic underperformance and a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development,” he pointed out.
In the Sultanate, Jose sees the potential for ISO 37001 — while essentially a voluntary standard — to be made a pre-requisite for vendor registration in major tenders. “Many countries and world leading companies have adopted ISO 37001 as their preferred framework to fight against bribery and corruption,” he said.
Oman already has in place robust laws and regulations to combat bribery and corruption, according to the audit professional. In January 2014, the Sultanate acceded to the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) which requires the government to ensure that companies have adequate internal auditing controls to prevent corruption.
Anti-bribery provisions are also embedded in a number of civil and criminal statutes, including the Criminal Code (CC), the Code of Criminal Procedure (CPC), the Law on the Protection of Public Funds and the Avoidance of Conflict of Interests and the Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Law (AML Law).
Oman has several anti-corruption authorities and bodies with powers to detect, investigate and prosecute instances of corruption, said Chacko. The list includes the State Audit Institution (SAI), Department of Public Prosecution for Public Funds Crimes, and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in the Royal Oman Police, among others., More recently, the National Centre for Financial Information(NCFI) was established to monitor Suspicious Transactions Reporting under Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Act.
The new Oman Penal Code Royal Decree No 7/2018 prescribes three to five years’ imprisonment, dismissal from employment and ban from public duties to any public official convicted of embezzling public or private funds, he added.