OECD says more needed to be done on bribery

The OECD Working Group on Bribery regrets that Austria has not had a conviction of bribing foreign public officials despite a number of allegations, 13 years after ratifying the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.

However, enforcement appears to be picking up, with one case being tried, two more cases soon to be tried, and four ongoing investigations.

The OECD Working Group on Bribery has just completed its Austria – Phase 3: Report on Implementation of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention on Austria’s application of the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and related instruments.

The report also cites potential problems concerning Austria’s framework for making companies responsible for bribing foreign public officials and potential obstacles to effective investigations.

Other main recommendations of the Group include that Austria should:

    Report in one year on how effectively its laws cover the bribery of foreign public officials through foreign agents abroad;
    Increase fines for companies convicted of foreign bribery, which currently cannot exceed EUR 1.3 million; and
    Improve foreign bribery investigations by reducing impediments to accessing bank records, and by increasing the use of tax information.

The report also highlights positive aspects of Austria’s efforts to fight foreign bribery. Austria recently amended its foreign bribery offences, in part, to implement previous recommendations by the Working Group on Bribery, and made it easier to prosecute Austrians that bribe foreign public officials abroad.

The new amendments will go into force in January 2013.

Austria also increased the sanctions for individuals and strengthened its law enforcement framework, including by establishing the Public Prosecutors Office for Combating Economic Crimes and Corruption in 2011, and the Federal Bureau of Anti-Corruption in 2010.

The Report invites Austria to report in writing in one year on progress enforcing its foreign bribery offences.  According to the normal procedure, Austria will also submit a written report to the Working Group within two years on steps taken to implement the new recommendations. This report will also be made publicly available.