SINGAPORE (May 7): Since 2012, regulators and law enforcement agencies around the world has imposed more than US$11 billion ($14.7 billion) in financial penalties, but the scale of bribery and corruption has shown no improvement globally, according to the 15th EY Global Fraud Survey.

The survey also found that 38% of global executives believe that bribery and corrupt practices remain prevalent in business, and 10% of the Singapore respondents shared similar perspectives.

Fortunately, perception levels of bribery and corruption in Singapore remains low, affirming that that the anti-corruption culture that Singapore has taken effort to build over the years.

Reuben Khoo, EY Asean Fraud Investigation & Dispute Services Leader says, “On the contrary, the benefits of compliance to demonstrate integrity can actually improve business performance. Particularly as the business environment becomes more competitive and complex, management teams must continue to communicate its commitment against unethical conduct in their organisations.”

“Compliance programs need to keep pace with the impact of rapid technological advancements and the increasingly complex risk environment on business operations. More robust risk management should be considered a strategic means of improving business performance,” adds Khoo.

In addition, the survey found that integrity sits high on the board agenda, with 94% of Singapore respondents and 97% respondents globally recognising the importance of their organisation being seen to operate with integrity.

Despite improved customer perception, staff retention and business performance were all seen as benefits of demonstrating integrity, which remains a mismatch between intentions and actual behaviour, as 28% of Singapore respondents – and 13% globally – would justify making cash payments to win or retain business.

In terms of who should take the primary responsibility for their organisation behaving with integrity, 38% of Singapore respondents feel that individuals should take the responsibility, while 28% feel that it is the management’s responsibility.

However, not all said has been done when it comes to managing misconduct. More than half (52%) of Singapore respondents believe that their organisations have the clear intent of penalising misconduct, but only half are aware of people who have actually been penalised.

“The management needs to be very clear and consistent in communicating their compliance programs and protocols. This will help to reduce the possibility of any confusion or lack of understanding of what constitutes ethical conduct and the potential penalty of a misconduct. This will better enable employees to respond appropriately should they encounter any unethical behaviour,” says Khoo.

The report also showed that managing ethical conduct is not an issue that is should only be dealt internally, but instead also with third parties and those acting on behalf of the organisation. Yet third-party due diligence seems to be a low priority, with only 56% of Singapore respondents indicating they have a tailored risk-based approach to due diligence on third parties.

“The encouraging news is that with today’s advances in forensic data analytics, companies can leverage new technologies to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of their efforts as they seek to improve investigation and compliance outcomes,” says Khoo.