SINGAPORE (Aug 27): Five Singapore-listed companies – Golden Agri-Resources, Sembcorp Industries, SIA Engineering Company, Singapore Airlines, and Singapore Telecommunications – have been named among the top 11 companies across Asean with the highest level of corporate disclosure on business integrity.

This is according to a joint study published Monday by the ASEAN CSR Network (ACN) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School’s Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations (CGIO).

The study looked at the 50 largest listed companies by market capitalisation in each of the five countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. They companies were then assessed on their level of public disclosure related to their anti-corruption efforts.

While the list of top-ranked companies in terms of disclosure on business integrity were dominated by SGX-listed firms, Singapore continues to lag behind Thailand in total disclosure rates.

Thailand saw the highest disclosure rate of 67% in the 2018 study, compared to a score of 57% in a baseline study conducted in 2016.

Meanwhile, Singapore scored the second highest at 55%, up from 47% two years ago.

The Philippines and Malaysia were tied at 53%, while Indonesia improved by 12 percentage points to achieve a score of 51%.

“I am heartened to note the progress made by all five ASEAN countries in the disclosure level of their anti-corruption policies and practices, and the efforts made by companies to improve on this front. The findings reveal that the code of corporate governance of each country influences the quality of disclosures made by companies in their annual reports or codes of conduct,” says ACN chairman Yanti Triwadiantini.

She urged policymakers and companies to build on the positive momentum to “further raise the level of corporate disclosure and transparency in our fight against corruption in Asean.”

Despite an across-the-board improvement in corporate disclosure of anti-corruption practices by top Asean-listed companies over the last two years, concerns remain over a lack of safeguards and practices regarding external relationships with agents and suppliers dealing with the organisations.

Across all five countries, companies consistently scored the lowest rates for disclosures relating to the applicability of their anti-corruption policy to external parties such as agents and suppliers.

The 2018 study found that the disclosure rate of companies whose anti-corruption policy explicitly applies to agents and suppliers was 16% and 29%, respectively.

According to ACN and CGIO, the involvement of external stakeholders as part of companies’ anti-corruption policies is equally important in curbing corruption, since suppliers’ kickbacks are among common forms of bribery within an organisation.

Keppel Offshore and Marine, a unit of SGX-listed Keppel Corporation, was fined a total of US$422 million ($570 million) in December last year after its former agent, Zwi Skornicki, made corrupt payments in relation to several Keppel O&M projects in Brazil.

The corrupt payments were made with knowledge or approval of former Keppel O&M executives.

See: Keppel O&M fined US$422 mil as part of resolution over bribes for contracts by ex-agent Skornicki

“In the new global business landscape with different cultures and practices, a common standard for business integrity is crucial,” says associate professor Lawrence Loh, director of CGIO.

“While the overall performance has improved over the years, the critical challenge in achieving total business integrity requires urgent recourse in the area of how companies deal with their external agents and suppliers.”