All stakeholders working together is essential

Briefly, how and why did the MiOD get involved with ICAC in the fight against corruption in the private sector?

ICAC organised a workshop for the private sector in November 2012 on the issue of corruption in Mauritius. The workshop was attended by approximately 70 participants mainly from the private sector. At this workshop it was generally agreed that there should be a private sector initiative to combat corruption in Mauritius and all those interested in participating in such an initiative, including the Mauritius Institute of Directors (MIOD) and Transparency Mauritius (TM), agreed to set up a working group. The initial working group was led by ICAC and was called the Business Action Group Against Corruption (BAGAC). At this stage it was decided that another meeting with the wider private sector should take place to ensure continued buy-in, to ensure also that BAGAC was on track and how this initiative should be taken forward.

This led to the second Business Forum run jointly by MIOD and ICAC with Prof Deon Rossouw in 2014…

During this forum regrouping 53 participants, a clear preference for a private sector led collective action initiative was expressed. There was also substantial support for a private sector led voluntary initiative. In the light of this outcome a compromise proposal was suggested which gained the support of the whole workshop. This proposal was that a private sector led collective action initiative should be established that should also allow for private sector led voluntary initiatives. There was also consensus in the group that the private sector led collective action initiative (Public Private Sector Platform Against Corruption) should be chaired by the Joint Economic Committee (JEC). The secretariat should be provided by ICAC. The private sector led voluntary initiative (Private sector Anti-Corruption Taskforce) on the other hand should be chaired by the MIoD with the Mauritius Employers Federation (MEF) providing the secretariat.

How would you describe the progress/results of this partnership today and what were the main challenges?

I think the original initiative by ICAC back in November 2012 was key to the progress that we see today. There is a general consensus in the private sector that we need to have such a voluntary initiative and we have made a lot of progress since this first meeting in deciding which direction and what shape the initiative should take. A lot of work has been accomplished by first BAGAC and now PACT but we also recognise that there is still more to do. The key challenges were initially getting everyone on board and then ensuring that the Integrity Pledge really meets the needs that it is designed to serve which is mobilising the private sector to take tangible measures to proactively reduce the risk of corruption and develop ethical cultures in their organisations. And then of course achieving consensus within the group, while continuing to consult the wider group of stakeholders. The proof of the pudding will of course be in the eating when we launch the Integrity Pledge later this year and when we evaluate its success.

Finally how would you rate the importance of an interplay of stakeholders – civil society, the press & the private sector – in the fight against corruption and the promotion of good governance in the business landscape in Mauritius?

I think it is essential that all the stakeholders work together. We know that more than USD 1 trillion is paid in bribes each year worldwide according to the World Bank. And we know that it is difficult to combat corruption on your own but by joining forces, we can make a difference. These problems cannot be resolved without the contribution of the private sector which accounts for up to 60% of all global business activities. In Mauritius, the negative impact of corruption on the country’s reputation would be very damaging to all sectors of the economy, but especially the Financial Services sector. Around the world there is increasing scrutiny and increasing media attention on such issues – fraud and corruption always steal the headlines first. And we know that in a difficult economic climate, the risk of fraud and corruption increases and yet companies are still failing to do enough to prevent bribery and corruption.

This interview appeared in the June 2015 newsletter of ICAC.