Transparency International has released its annual survey of the likelihood of companies from 28 leading economies to win business abroad by paying bribes. The report looked at 28 countries this year (up from 22 last year), and shows that companies from the Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium are the least likely to pay bribes to get contracts, while companies from Russia and China are the most likely. Canada, along with Germany, Japan and Australia, also scored well on the honesty scale. As Hill+Knowlton’s Senior Vice President and National Service Leader for Public Affairs, Elizabeth Roscoe, explains, the way Canadian companies operate at home is a big factor in how they conduct their business abroad.

The release of Transparency’s Bribe Payer Index is an opportunity for Canadians to appreciate that we have very strong lobbying rules, regulations and codes of conduct that are followed in this country to help people understand how decisions are made and who it is that is influencing government.

I’m not surprised Canada was near the top of the Transparency International index.  We’ve had rules in place for some time that help to increase transparency, never more than the Federal Accountability Act that Canada passed in 2006. On the other hand, those countries at the bottom of the index are dealing with transformative change, within both their governments and their economies. In time, they probably will look to countries like Canada and Switzerland to borrow the “rules of the road.”

Lobbying is a translation business – translating business interests to government and government policy to business. Lobbyists work every day to ensure there is common understanding and true appreciation by government of where business, including not-for-profit, has an interest in influencing public policy and that business understands what government is trying to achieve in the public interest.  That translator role requires us to be open and transparent about what it is we’re communicating and who it is that we’re working to influence.

Public scrutiny of what lobbyists do ensures that there is a clearer understanding of what lobbying accomplishes and what strategies and tactics lobbyists – whether they are corporations, consultants or not-for-profits – use and how they are interacting with decision makers.

There are some provincial governments that are going to be introducing more lobbying regulations, including the province of Saskatchewan. The recent inquiry that Quebec Premier Jean Charest has identified in the construction industry is another indication that there are rules that will be followed in Canada and, where necessary, inquiries that will be set up to oversee industry’s relationship with government in the public interest.

It is the practice of adhering to those rules and regulations that has contributed to Canada being in the top rank of compliance with anti-bribery efforts around the world.