Many of the member countries to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Anti-Bribery Convention are not doing enough to prevent bribery and corruption, according to a new report from anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International.

Forty-one signatory countries to the OECD's Anti-Bribery Convention have pledged to make foreign bribery a crime and hold both individuals and companies culpable. Sixteen years after the entry into force of the convention, however, 22 OECD anti-bribery convention countries have “failed to investigate or prosecute any foreign bribery case during the last four years,” said Transparency International's 11th annual progress report on the OECD agreements.

“By signing up to the OECD anti-bribery convention, governments commit to investigate and prosecute cross-border corruption, yet nearly half of signatory governments are not doing so,” said Transparency International chair José Ugaz. “The OECD must ensure real consequences for such poor performance. Violation of international law obligations to counter cross-border corruption cannot be tolerated.”

The 2015 progress report shows that only four of 41 member countries are actively investigating and prosecuting companies that bribe foreign officials to get or inflate contracts, or obtain licenses and concessions. The four leading enforcers (Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States) completed 215 cases and started 59 new cases from 2011-2014.

Six countries, with 8.9 percent of world exports, were classified as having moderate enforcement. These countries are Italy, Canada, Australia, Austria, Norway, and Finland.

Another nine countries, with 12.6 percent of world exports, have limited enforcement. These include France, Netherland, South Korea, Sweden, Hungary, South Africa, Portugal, Greece, and New Zealand.

The remaining 20 countries, with 20.4 percent of world exports, had little or no enforcement, and two countries could not be measured. Among the countries with little or no enforcement include Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Poland, and more.

Transparency International makes the argument that the countries with little or no enforcement are failing to investigate and prosecute cross-border bribery “due to a lack of political will and inadequate resources allocated toward enforcement measures and inadequate resources allocated toward enforcement measures and investigations.”

Since the 2014 progress report, Norway has improved to “moderate enforcement” from “limited enforcement.” Greece, Netherlands, and South Korea have improved from “little or no enforcement” to “limited enforcement.” Argentina is the only country to decline, moving from “limited enforcement” to “little or no enforcement.”

Adequacy of Sanctions

Transparency International said that “insufficient sanctions foreseen by law or imposed in practice to deter foreign bribery also hamper enforcement efforts in 21 countries. The OECD Foreign Bribery Report, published in December 2014, indicates that significant sanctions were imposed in only 17 of 41 countries.

In Chile and Japan, sanctions for foreign bribery offenses are inadequate, and in France the application of sanctions is too lenient, Transparency International said. "In Russia, changes to the criminal code reduced the size of penalties for receiving or giving bribes, including those relating to foreign officials, and increased the maximum time available to pay such fines in installments," the report said.

In seven other countries (Austria, Greece, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland and Sweden), the fines for legal entities committing foreign bribery are too low. "Criminal liability of legal entities is not appropriately covered by the criminal laws of Estonia, Latvia, Mexico and Poland and Turkey," Transparency International said. "At the same time, the parliaments of Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia and Argentina are debating bills addressing the same issue, and in the Slovak Republic the relevant law enters into force in July."

In response to the overall findings of its report, Transparency International is calling for civil society and the private sector “to start national programs that address the shortcomings of their governments.”