Blog by Mr. Mathad Al-Ajmi
The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Commission on Corporate Responsibility and Anti-corruption recently convened a webinar with global leaders to discuss recommendations and tools on incorporating integrity and compliance into the COVID-19 response and rebuilding plans. As Chair of the Integrity & Compliance Taskforce, I had the pleasure of attending the webinar to speak about the considerations of our Taskforce in light of COVID-19 and beyond.
The role of the B20 Saudi Arabia’s Integrity & Compliance Taskforce is now more important than ever. The pandemic has presented a myriad of new difficulties and in many cases acted as a catalyst, magnifying pre-existing problems in global business conduct and regulatory arenas. There is a particular concern about ensuring that large stimulus packages, provided by federal governments, support those who need it most. Further, regular disruptions in the supply chain are making them especially vulnerable to corruption at this time.
The B20 has identified three key themes to combat corruption internationally that are essential both now and in a post-COVID-19 world: pursuing integrity in the public and private sectors, leveraging emerging technologies to manage corruption and fraud, and enhancing integrity and transparency in public procurement.
Pursuing integrity in the public and private sectors
Previous B20 and G20 Summits have recognised the importance of whistle blower programs in promoting integrity in the public and private sectors, with recent progress being marked by the G20’s adoption of related high-level principles in 2017. However, there is significant room for improvement by targeting vulnerable industry sectors. To address this, governments must work collaboratively with the private sector to develop new channels for whistle blower protection.
Leveraging emerging technologies to manage corruption and fraud
COVID-19 has accelerated the speed of digital transformation. As such, we should embrace emerging technologies that have the potential to reduce opportunities for corruption, enhance effectiveness and efficiency in the public and private sector, strengthen transparency and increase public trust as we respond to and rebuild from COVID-19.
Enhancing integrity and transparency in public procurement
Public procurement constitutes the largest marketplace in developing and developed economies, accounting for 20% of the global GDP. (1) Given the widespread impact of public procurement activities across all G20 countries, it is essential to address corruption within it. By focussing on building higher levels of transparency and integrity in public procurement, the B20 Saudi Arabia looks to build on progress made at previous Summits. This year’s B20 will place a greater emphasis on the role of the private sector and third-party risk management. It will be necessary to ensure B20s’ recommendations are measured and tracked to ensure that progress is made following the G20 Summit.
Lastly, ‘Women in Business’ is the signature topic for B20 Saudi Arabia this year. Unfortunately, women have been found to be at a greater risk of suffering negative impacts from corruption. To address this, our Taskforce has proposed anti-corruption training to raise awareness about corruption and equip women with the tools to identify and combat it. The focus on empowering women to fight corruption was well received by the ICC members present during the webinar, as it constitutes a move into an area that has not been previously addressed.
Overall, responsible business conduct not only builds a healthy company culture and business environment, it directly correlates with economic growth. Thus, transparency and integrity will play an integral role in rebuilding economies post-COVID-19. To that end, we believe that collaboration amongst the international community is the only way to effectively combat corruption. We are grateful for our partnership with the ICC and look forward to progressing these priorities together.
Mr. Mathad Al-Ajmi is Chair of the Integrity & Compliance Taskforce at B20 Saudi Arabia and Vice President and General Counsel at Saudi Telecommunication Company (STC). He is a certified lawyer and has more than 18 years of experience in the legal domain.