Canada needs to do a better job of investigating and prosecuting the bribery of foreign public officials by Canadian companies, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development says.

"Canada’s enforcement of the foreign bribery offence [is] still lagging," the OECD said in a statement.

"Canada's regime for enforcement of the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act

[CFPOA] remains problematic in important areas."
bribe-deal-istock-300

An OECD report notes that only one Canadian company has been convicted of breaking the country's 12-year-old law against foreign bribery. ((iStock))

The OECD noted Canada has completed the prosecution of only one company since it enacted its foreign bribery law 12 years ago. Calgary-based Hydro Kleen was fined $25,000 for bribing a U.S. immigration official to favourably process visa applications for its employees.

The fine was less than the $28,000 US in bribes it paid — a punishment the OECD said fell short of its standard that penalties be "effective, proportionate and dissuasive."

The OECD report recommends that Canada:

  • Amend its CFPOA legislation so it applies to bribery related to all international business, not just business "for profit."
  • Ensure that sanctions for violations are proportionate and effective.
  • Do whatever is needed to prosecute Canadian nationals for overseas bribes of foreign public officials.
  • Ensure that police and prosecutors know that Canada's relationship with a foreign state must not affect decisions on whether to prosecute.

The OECD acknowledges that enforcement efforts in Canada have increased recently, thanks to the creation in 2008 of the RCMP's international anti-corruption unit. One prosecution is ongoing and more than 20 active investigations are underway.

But the OECD report warns "Canada's ability to prosecute these investigations will be in jeopardy" unless resources are set aside to deal with the volume of cases expected to follow.

The OECD did, however, give Canada high marks for enacting a Criminal Code offence that makes it illegal to threaten or retaliate against bribery whistleblowers. 

Canada has been asked to follow up on the OECD report by October.