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Risky business sparks watchdog warning on Asia-Pacific deals

Australia is immersed in a region with high levels of corruption and companies are not doing enough to combat the problem, research shows.

Australia is immersed in a region with high levels of corruption and companies are not doing enough to combat the problem, research shows.

AUSTRALIA is immersed in a region with high levels of corruption and companies are not doing enough to combat the problem, research shows.

Corruption watchdog Transparency International yesterday released data showing that more than two-thirds of countries in the Asia-Pacific region - where many Australian companies do business - were perceived as more corrupt than clean.

''We've got to be on our guard all the time,'' Transparency International Australia executive director Michael Ahrens said. ''The lesson from this annual survey is that every Australian business operating in these risky countries must have in place adequate procedures to deal with this challenge.''

But a survey of senior Australian executives released last week by law firm Baker & McKenzie found that Australian companies were lagging behind global anti-bribery standards. More than three-quarters of respondents said they engaged intermediaries overseas and those from the pharmaceuticals and healthcare sector most often reported that they were at extremely high risk of corruption.

Research commissioned by the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors and released in October found that 126 of the top ASX200 companies were exposed to high-risk sectors or countries. More than 40 per cent failed to publish a policy banning bribery or facilitation payments, lagging behind international peers such as the US and Britain.

The report said shareholders should be concerned.

''In the current environment, the chances of an ASX200 company with international operations, no stated anti-bribery policy, and/or inadequate anti-bribery management controls becoming embroiled in another large-scale corruption scandal over the next five years appear to be substantial.''

But the survey shows the Reserve Bank of Australia scandal has not affected Australia's clean rating.

Australia maintained its position as the country with the eighth lowest levels of perceived corruption out of 183 surveyed.

New Zealand climbed to first over last year's top-ranked Denmark. Somalia is ranked last again. North Korea, which has been measured for the first time this year, was second worst and Burma third worst.


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