“ASEAN leaders must create a regional body that integrates anti-corruption principles into the framework of a proposed regional economic community or hopes for shared prosperity, upward mobility and entrepreneurship won’t be fulfilled.”

As the enforcement cases of Alstom, Alcoa and Avon show, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) prosecutions are increasingly centred on the Asia-Pacific region. According to the 2014 Herbert Smith Freehills Asia-Pacific Anti-Corruption Report, one in four FCPA enforcement actions between May 2013 and April 2014 was generated in APAC, while Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer reports at least 115 pending investigation cases, more than double compared to any other region.

Specifically, within ASEAN, although member states have ratified the UN Convention against Corruption, corruption in the nine countries continues to run rampant with an average score of only 38 out of the maximum 100 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. According to Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer, citizens within ASEAN rank political parties, public officials, the judiciary and parliamentarians as the most affected by corruption, seriously affecting the process of doing business in these countries.

With greater integration comes greater exposure to cross-border corruption risks, urging for the combination of economic harmonisation with the so-called Integrity Community in the framework of the ASEAN Economic Community and the post-2020 ASEAN vision. The Integrity Community would help drive regional anti-corruption policies, joint enforcement and enhanced engagement between government, civil society and the business sector.

In addition, with the release of its report titled “Verification of Anti-Corruption Compliance Programs,” Transparency International underlines the importance between translating high-level regional initiatives into robust corporate policies, encompassing due diligence, internal and external audit and the public disclosure of the results for verification exercises.

Practical recommendations help ensure that the principles of ethics and compliance don’t stop at the signing of national conventions or regional agreements, but are embedded in business practices and corporate culture.

The planned International Anti-Corruption Convention in September 2015 in Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia’s Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2015 will hopefully contribute to ensure that plans for an Integrity Community are underway this year. As a promising development, the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission, along with fellow anti-graft bodies within ASEAN, has formed the South East Asia Parties against Corruption (SEA-PAC) to facilitate regional anti-corruption prevention and investigations and to set up a regional anti-corruption training hub under the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Academy (MACA).

Want to find out more? Join ALB’s SE Asia Anti-Corruption Forum on 30 June in Singapore and hear directly from senior representatives of Transparency International, the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission or the Ombudsman Office of the Philippines! –Trang Chu Minh, http://www.legalbusinessonline.com/news/asean-plans-integrity-community/68872