On Dec. 3, 2014, Transparency International published its Corruption Perceptions Index (“CPI”) for 2014. The 2014 edition ranks 175 countries based the perceived level of corruption in the country’s public sector. Canada ranked tenth (10th) in the 2014 CPI with a score of 81 on a scale of 0-100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. The UK ranked 14th with 78 points and the US tied for 17th place with Hong Kong, Barbados and Ireland at 74. The 2014 CPI is available for download here.

Transparency International (“TI”) is a civil society organization founded in 1993 to lead the global fight against corruption. It published its first annual CPI in 1995 and has a presence in more than 100 countries. Since corruption generally comprises illegal activities that are hidden by the parties involved, hard empirical data cannot form a meaningful basis to assess absolute levels of public sector corruption in countries. Thus, the annual publication of the CPI ranks countries according to perceived levels of corruption as measured by numerous independent institutions specializing in business and governance analysis, including the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, the Economist Intelligence Unit and TI’s own Bribe Payers Survey.

Canada’s 2014 CPI score has dropped one rank (from ninth place) since 2013. This is not surprising given the events surrounding the charges filed against SNC Lavalin former staff and executives as well as the Charbonneau Commission’s inquiry into corrupt business practices in Quebec’s construction industry which have invariably increased the perception, if not the reality, of corruption and bribery issues in Canada.

Denmark ranked first in the 2014 CPI with a score of 92. North Korea and Somalia again occupy the bottom rung of the 2014 CPI with a score of 8. As in 2013, more than two-thirds of the countries ranked in the 2014 survey scored less than 50, including all of the world’s largest emerging national economies. Of interest to Canadian corporations with operations abroad:

  • China dropped 4 points to 36, notwithstanding the fact that the Chinese government launched an anti-corruption campaign targeting corrupt public officials;
  • Brazil scored 43 points – consistent with its historical points, despite a year that saw questions raised about a major oil company using secret companies to bribe politicians;
  • India,at 38 points, showed a two-point improvement over its 2013 and 2012 scores; and
  • Russia represents the lowest of the BRIC countries at 27 points, a score that has slightly worsened since 2013 and 2012.

In addition to being subject to Canadian law for domestic operations, Canadian companies as well as Canadian individuals are subject to the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, (“CFPOA”), Canada’s international anti-corruption legislation. The CFPOA makes it a criminal offence in Canada for persons or companies to bribe foreign public officials to obtain or retain an advantage in the course of international business.

“Being cognizant of corruption issues is just good business practice,” says Kris Robidoux, partner in Gowlings’ White Collar Defence and Investigations practice group. “The first step to mitigating your corporation’s corruption risks in Canada and in its foreign operations is being aware of the potential stumbling blocks and taking steps to mitigate these risks. Commitment to a strong business integrity program and anti-corruption practices on the front end can go a long way to avoiding issues down the road, including large fines and even jail time.”