More than one trillion dollars is paid in bribes every year, according to the World Bank. Now, the RCMP has collaborated with academics and industry to create a new centre aimed at stopping bribery and corruption here in Canada.
Launched by the University of Ottawa in December, the Canadian Centre of Excellence in Anti-Corruption (CCEAC) serves as an information hub and a networking platform.
"Canada is taking a leadership role in the world," says Garrick Apollon, a professor at the University of Ottawa and co-founder of the centre. "This centre will become a global think-tank."
The anti-corruption centre will offer free information, tools and training to industry partners, with a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises, non-governmental organizations and charities. The goal is to foster discussion, provide resources and share best practices.
"When you talk about corruption, that's what destroys every fiber of democracy and the rule of law," says Apollon. "This is an issue not only in developing nations, but here too."
Experts from a range of fields have joined forces with the centre, including business leaders, lawyers, academics, students and police officials. This collaborative approach allows the RCMP to be more efficient when it comes to cracking down on white collar crime.
"Anti-corruption investigations are lengthy and complicated," says Sgt. Patrice Poitevin, an investigator with the RCMP's National Division in Ottawa, whose mandate includes investigating threats to Canada's economic integrity. "It's more effective for us to have a balance between prevention and enforcement."
Bringing in business
The RCMP plans to use the latest research provided by experts at the University of Ottawa to educate businesses on the laws surrounding corruption. Poitevin says it's especially important to share the consequences of corruption and what public and private companies can do to mitigate their risk.
"To change behavior and corporate social norms we need more than just laws, we need to promote ethical governance," says Poitevin. "There's still a need for education and prevention information."
Many small and medium-sized businesses don't have the resources to implement anti-corruption plans. So far, the CCEAC has offered free training to several companies, including JCM Capital, a clean power company focused on emerging markets.
"In the early days, we didn't have the information and we didn't know how serious corruption was," says Martin Ritchie, chief risk officer and co-founder of JCM Capital. "We were a bit naive, and we didn't have the budget to put towards it."
Ritchie's company operates in some of the highest-risk regions of the world, including Chad and Nigeria. Over the past several years, JCM Capital has been exposed to a number of bribery and corruption tactics. Now, Ritchie is realizing the benefits of investing in an anti-corruption program.
"It's good for our company to be aligned with this centre for fundraising, business development and attracting and retaining world-class talent," says Ritchie. "It's important to be viewed in a strong ethical light by the market for many reasons."
The centre also provides a means for companies such as JCM Capital to connect and share their stories and best practices with other businesses.
An academic approach
Within the last decade, the global business environment has shifted towards greater transparency and accountability. Corruption scandals such as those within the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and Volkswagen have brought the issue to the forefront.
"There's greater enforcement now in anti-corruption, greater awareness and greater pushback from society," says Poitevin. "It's becoming a competitive business advantage to be ethical."
Involving academia and engaging students is the cornerstone of the project. Business students such as Alex Puppa at the University of Ottawa are eager to learn as much as they can to be successful in the future.
"We are the leaders of tomorrow," says Puppa. "What we learn in the classroom is great but having the experience in the field and seeing some of the issues firsthand — and how we can make a difference — is something that I think is really important."
Five more universities across Canada are set to partner with the centre, along with Sussex University in the United Kingdom.
"When you have an organization like the RCMP involved, it gives the centre a sense of legitimacy," says Puppa. "This isn't just a program for certain companies. This is something an entire country stands behind."