Latin America, Online
Due to the ongoing outbreak of Covid-19, the Alliance for Integrity has intensified its work to develop and implement products and activities appropriate to the current situation. In Latin America, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) provide more than half of all formal jobs. Many of these companies are in rural areas, far from industrial and urban centres. Against this background, the transition to digital technologies is extremely important and, in some cases, crucial to achieve a relevant degree of systemic impact in the regional economy.
The Alliance for Integrity has conducted a survey among companies of its network focusing on specific topics related to corporate governance and compliance in times of crisis. It is undeniable that the current situation, which is characterised by social distancing and working remotely, also creates several challenges and new ways of collaborating. Since the beginning of the pandemic, all meetings of DEPE trainers, Advisory Groups and other Working Groups have been conducted online. During these sessions, the results of the survey were presented to the compliance experts aiming to provide an overview of burning issues in the economic system. The topics mainly highlighted were ‘Integrity in Procurement Processes’, ‘Due Diligence in Times of Crisis’, ‘Behavioral Compliance: New Ethical Dilemmas during the COVID-19 Crisis’ and ‘Integrity in Times of Crisis: how to maintain the values in the company and the supply chain’.
The findings were further discussed during the regional webinar on "Integrity as a value to overcome times of crisis: how to transform challenges into opportunities for your business?” and will be part of new materials and content that are currently in preparation. As the current situation requires a multi-stakeholder approach, the event featured four speakers from the public and private sector as well as civil society to provide a new and comprehensive perspective on the issue.
Arturo Molina, Managing Director at Covestro S.A. de C.V. from Mexico, shared some of the lessons learned and best practices already implemented in the company. He stressed the need for a tone from the top as well as open and constant communication with all employees, making good use of digital tools. According to him, the current crisis forces everyone to be more creative, which could be an advantage in the future.
Following this, Teresa Moll de Alba, Senior Manager for Latin America and the Caribbean at the UN Global Compact Network, shared the activities of the initiative in the region and explained how they are adapting to the current situation, highlighting the unnegotiable nature of business integrity even in such circumstances.
In line with previous discussions, Jorge Bermúdez Soto, Comptroller-General of Chile, pointed out some of the main causes for challenges that occur in the context of anti-corruption efforts in times of crisis: the need to speed up processes and the high costs of doing so lead to fewer resources for accountability; also the medical and sanitary nature of such a crisis requires specialised procurement processes, making transparency more difficult to achieve. He calls for three ways to address these issues: the inclusion of digital tools in auditing activities, transparency in public procedures to prevent illegal activities, and the communication of each action, both in the sanitary field and in audit activities.
Finally, Maria Vitoria Perottino, Governance, Risks and Compliance Specialist at Unimed Belo Horizonte, Brazil, emphasised the growing importance of the compliance department in the healthcare sector and private companies in general. According to her, compliance officers can participate in crisis management task forces, deal with data security issues and focus on the written documentation of every procedure and action taken.
After the input of the speakers, participants had the opportunity to learn more about best practices, ask questions and discuss the main challenges the region is currently facing in terms of compliance and integrity. For everyone who missed the webinar, the video recording can be also found on the Alliance for Integrity’s YouTube channel.
While large companies need to make processes and controls more flexible, it is now more important than ever to figure out how to keep supporting and strengthening business integrity and best practices in the region. Furthermore, the Alliance for Integrity is currently adaptating the one-day DEPE (De Empresas para Empresas) training programme on anti-corruption to a digital format. Four global task forces have been established with DEPE trainers and other relevant stakeholders, each working on one of the four modules of the programme. The latest activities and materials of the Alliance for Integrity on integrity in times of crisis can be found in compact version on the topic page of the same name.
Author: Fernando Orn