Corporate secrecy is one of the things that aid global corruption, whether it’s intentional or not. However, Canada is trying to change that, albeit not quickly enough if you ask the critics.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) criticized Canada for being a delayer in implementing anti-corruption policies. Now, the country is taking steps towards to catch up with the said policies, which will start in June. This news may be encouraging for those who are staunchly fighting all forms of corruption.
Former part of the RCMP that deals with corruption and now co-founder of Canadian Centre of Excellence for Anti-Corruption Pat Poitevin said there have been advances towards progress in the recent years, and that even though he ought to be a pessimist on the matter, having worked with RCMP for 35 years, he now could see a change.
Beneficial ownership registry is one the things that Poitevin and some others have been wanting to shed a light on. This is so investigators would have better access to where the money comes and goes, as well as to track who benefits from illicit and illegal activities like bribery and money laundering.
Executive Director of Transparency International Canada James Cohen said that the registry would mostly be limited to regulator access and that while these currents amendment were to do something, it would be not very much as it would only do very little. He added that this registry is only a part of the small action by Canada to fight off corruption. He continued to say that more than their lack of capacity, the general interest is insufficient to battle the issue at hand. Bribery is often thought as a crime with minimum to no victims, albeit the UN’s estimation of corruption’s global cost reaching around US$2.6 trillion.
It was only in 2017 when Canada added facilitation bribes to the list of what’s banned by the Corruption of Foreign Public Official Act. However, efforts to raise disclosures have been made. This includes the Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act that was passed in 2014. This act obliges companies to disclose the government payments they’re making. The act has been helpful in shedding light to suspicious gaps and discrepancies in money trails according to Jamie Kneen. However, Kneen also said that this could only go so far. It makes it more difficult when RCMP would have to go to another country and ask for assistance and cooperation from the countries authorities.
This challenged is what pushed the federal government to introduce deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), which would give companies the option to avoid trial and have a less complicated and faster solution. A law professor at University of Alberta, Joanna Harrington, said that it all comes down to what they can offer in return as this option would require the help of someone from the inside since this is very difficult to prove or even find out.
With all this being said, Potein said that however slow and small this push for transparency is, it is not something that is not helpful in the combat against corruption, because it is.