Reporting on Bribery

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By its very nature bribery is difficult to identify and analyze (except when people get caught!), but the good folk at Trace International are trying to uncover the inner workings through their BRIBEline initiative (which they have asked us to help promote).

    “BRIBEline, available at, is a secure, multi-lingual website through which companies and individuals can anonymously report the bribe demands they receive. Making a report on BRIBEline is quick and easy. The online survey is available in Chinese and 20 other languages. Completing the survey involves answering no more than ten multiple-choice questions. No names are requested or collected, the individual is not asked if the bribe was paid, and reports made to BRIBEline are not used for investigations or prosecutions.”

According to a report on the research in the South China Morning Post:

    “China ranked third worldwide for bribery cases reported through a new online system in the past year, but the group that compiled the figures said its position might be due to the large number of companies doing business on the mainland.

    A total of 148 companies and individuals reported bribery demands on the mainland for the year ending on June 30, behind only Russia and India, US-based Trace International said yesterday.”

    …Of the bribe demands reported on the mainland during the period, 85 per cent were requested by those affiliated with the government…
    Nearly three-quarters of those reporting bribes said they had been asked more than once, of which a fifth had been asked more than 100 times. “It really is endemic,” she said.

    Most demands – 77 per cent – were for cash or cash equivalents. However, more than 20 per cent asked for something else, such as gifts or even sexual favours.

    The amounts were also surprising, showing bribes had risen in value, with 55 per cent between US$100 and US$5,000. “That seemed to be the bribery sweet spot,” Ms Wrage said…demands for more than US$500,000 were a “significant” 6 per cent.

    The majority of bribes were not demanded in return for awarding business, but rather for avoidance of harm or granting something that a party was entitled to…

    She recommended companies allow time and encourage transparency to avoid giving bribes. “If you introduce both difficulty and delay [for the bribe-taker], you can usually get through it,” she said.”

We have noted before that bribery and corruption are global, just like business, and that China is not unique in having a problem (or in making it illegal). China was placed at 71 out of 141 countries in the corruption rankings put out by Transparency International in 2005.

The recommendation remains to avoid getting caught up in murky deals which, at best, provide a short-term benefit (coupled with a long-term hangover) and which, at worst, can end in legal proceedings and painful penalties (whether in China, the US or elsewhere).

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