Singapore launched the Singapore Standard (SS) ISO 37001 on Anti-bribery management systems on 12 April 2017, following a public consultation from February to March 2016 on the adoption of the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO)'s new set of voluntary standards (designated as ISO 37001) for anti-bribery compliance.
ISO 37001 represents a global consensus of good practices of public and private sector organisations in ensuring anti-bribery compliance. It was developed by an ISO committee comprising representatives from 61 countries, including Singapore which was represented by the Working Group on Anti-Bribery Management Systems led by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and was comprised of 11 representatives from businesses, trade associations and chambers, academia and government bodies.
One of the objectives of SS ISO 37001 is to help Singapore companies strengthen their anti-bribery compliance systems and processes to a global standard, thereby increasing trust and confidence in their products and services and boosting their competitiveness in global markets. In an environment where corruption cases are becoming increasingly transnational in character and the global nature of anti-bribery enforcement continues to gain momentum, the SS ISO 37001 will also enable Singapore companies to adopt an international approach to their anti-bribery and compliance programs to effectively safeguard against corrupt practices.
The SS ISO 37001, similar to ISO 37001, specifies requirements for:
i. top management leadership and commitment;
ii. anti-bribery policy and procedures, as well as relevant training to personnel;
iii. third party risk assessments and due diligence;
iv. financial, procurement, commercial and contractual controls;
v. reporting, monitoring and investigation procedures;
vi. appropriate remedial measures and continual monitoring and improvement; and
vii. oversight by a compliance manager or function
More information on the framework and requirements of the ISO 37001 can be found here.
The ISO 37001 can be a useful tool to help organisations develop, implement and improve their anti-corruption compliance programs. That said, it is yet to be determined if authorities will view the ISO 37001 as an objective standard for evaluating an organisation's compliance program. While an ISO 37001 certification may serve as evidence that the organisation has taken steps to prevent bribery in the unfortunate event of an investigation, it would not guarantee a finding by authorities that all reasonable steps have been taken in ensuring compliance. Organisations would also be well advised to take into account other guidance notes, such as the recent guidance issued in February 2017 by the U.S. Department of Justice on the Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs.
Ultimately, a comprehensive anti-corruption compliance program needs to consider an organisation's specific characteristics, requirements and needs. An effective compliance program is also dependant upon the business' understanding of potential issues and consideration of risks as an intrinsic part of what they do. A further challenge exists for multinational companies who need to contend with compliance requirements of different jurisdictions, including both local laws and extraterritorial laws such as the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the UK Bribery Act. Baker McKenzie has assisted many such multinational companies with the development and implementation of their anti-corruption compliance programs, ensuring that each feature is tailored to the needs of the organisation, and at the same time compliant with the laws to which the organisation may be subject.
Whether an organisation is at its initial stages of developing an anti-corruption program or already has one in place, this could be an opportune time to revisit the requirements given the recent developments around the ISO 37001. Apart from Singapore, Peru has also adopted the same voluntary standard and it is expected that other countries will follow suit.