The private sector and the prevention of corruption

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has been given the responsibility to help translate the commitments of UNCAC into action. An important part of its mission is to help the private sector strengthen its engagement in anti-corruption activities globally and level the playing field for businesses around the world. UNODC has extensive experience and in-depth technical expertise in the area of business integrity and is implementing technical assistance projects to support businesses in preventing and fighting corruption. 

The United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and the private sector

UNCAC contains a number of provisions that, while addressed to States, have a direct impact on companies because they promote rules under which all stakeholders, whether governments or businesses, operate in line with standards designed to combat unfair competition, reduce market distortions and promote integrity.

Article 12 of UNCAC is devoted to measures aimed at preventing corruption in the private sector through a broad set of actions to be taken by States, including:

  • Promoting cooperation between law enforcement agencies and the private sector
  • Promoting the development of standards and procedures to safeguard integrity within the private sector, including codes of conduct
  • Encouraging good commercial practices to level the playing field for business
  • Promoting transparency within the private sector, including the disclosure of the identity of those who manage corporate entities
  • Preventing the misuse of procedures regulating private entities
  • Preventing conflicts of interest
  • Strengthening accounting and auditing standards in the private sector
  • Adopting civil, administrative or criminal sanctions to punish corporate wrongdoing
  • Disallowing tax deductions for expenses that constitute bribes
  • Adopting measures that prohibit the private sector from establishing off-the-books accounts; making off-the-books or inadequately identified transactions; recording non-existent expenditures; entering liabilities with incorrect identification of their objects; using false documents; and destroying bookkeeping documents in violation of legal requirements

Private sector cooperation

UNCAC calls for cooperation between national authorities and the private sector to fight corruption and promote the interests of both the private and public sectors, including through private sector reporting on corruption. Corruption schemes are frequently complex and by nature covert, making their detection hard. The cooperation of private entities, especially financial institutions, is often key to launching and conducting investigations. Article 39 of UNCAC encourages cooperation between companies and investigating and prosecuting authorities. The Convention also provides for the protection of whistle-blowers, witnesses, experts and victims (Articles 32 and 33).