Companies & Industries

One in five executives believe bribery is widespread in Canada

Only 4% have been asked for a bribe

One in five Canadian executives believes bribery or corrupt practices occur widely in business in this country, according to a new survey by Ernst & Young.

That compares favorably with a global rate of 38%, but it’s still not good enough says Mike Savage, an Ernst & Young partner and Canadian Fraud Investigation and Dispute Services Leader. “I think many of us as Canadians would look at a number of 20% — one in five — and that’s still too high for the standards we set ourselves,” he said.

This graph shows how executives around the world perceive corruption, so expresses the global average. The Canadian figure is not included in the report but Savage provided me with the details about our homegrown perceptions of bribery and corruption in a phone interview.

E&Y 13th Global Fraud Survey

In 2012, only 14% of Canadian executives reported believing that corrupt practices happen in business. Savage says the increase may be due to a number of high-profile corruption cases in the interim. “It’s speculative, but I think the issue of corruption has received a lot more attention over the last two years — all the publicity and press around law enforcement activity,” he explains. “I think that has fed into the perception that perhaps things are not as good as we believed they were two years ago.”

Four per cent of Canadian executives reported asking to be paid a bribe in a business situation, versus a global rate of 7%, while 10% had been asked to make a charitable contribution by a customer or client, compared to 20% worldwide.

READ: The Crackdown: How the RCMP is going after companies that bribe foreigners

Savage says the discrepancy between the perceived prevalence of bribery and executives’ own experience of it may be down to stories circulating in the industry or post-bid analysis that identifies competitors corrupt practices as the reason for a successful tender.

Sour grapes may also be a factor, he admits. “It’s easier to believe that somebody else won the contract not because their price was better or their product was better, but because the playing field was not level.”

The report notes that Canada has recently amended its anti-corruption regime, which may act to reduce that one-in-five number two years hence.