Timely article from Mak Yuen Teen in the Business Times (Singapore). Some snippets:
..... allegations have been made in media reports about the possible involvement of some Singapore companies in bribery scandals overseas. The responses from these companies typically include an immediate denial of the allegations, and an assertion that the company has zero tolerance for corruption and a code of conduct prohibiting bribery and corruption.
.... every company will undoubtedly say it has a zero tolerance for corruption. I have never seen a company say it has some tolerance for corruption.
.... most companies have a code of conduct that prohibits bribery and corruption, and certainly none will have one that condones it. This does not guarantee that employees or third parties may not have violated the code.
In a recent case, overseas media reports said a leaked confidential memo from an overseas company accused of being a middleman in a massive bribery scandal commented that the Singapore company that was allegedly involved was an "ideal client" because it had lax anti-corruption controls, relative to other multinational clients.
[this is most likely a reference to Keppel, as described here]
Singapore companies that do business overseas need to take a good hard look at their compliance programmes, strategies, incentive systems and business practices and adopt a more measured approach when responding to bribery allegations. Rather than issuing a knee-jerk outright denial, chanting "zero tolerance for corruption" and "code of conduct" whenever such allegations surface, they should take allegations seriously and commit to reviewing their compliance programmes and undertaking their own investigations. Outright denial of bribery without any specific action may give the impression that the company has a head-in-the-sand attitude towards actual bribery risks out in the field. If the allegations subsequently turn out to be true, the company's initial response would be seen to be shallow and, over time, the company will lose its credibility.