Outrageous! Odebrecht will participate in an Anti-Corruption Summit

The Brazilian construction company will participate in the Third Andean Anticorruption Summit that will take place from October 23 to 24

Outrageous! Odebrecht will participate in an Anti-Corruption Summit

The construction company Odebrecht is the guest of the Third Andean Anticorruption Summit in Bogotá, that seeks to reflect on the phenomenon of corruption in the region. Margalida Smith, the director of compliance of this company, will give a talk entitled "Lessons learned" that revolves around recovering the image of the company.

Leer en español: ¡Qué ironía! Odebrecht participará en una Cumbre Anticorrupción

The event organized by The Canadian Institute will be attended by other companies with a regional presence, in addition to the Office of the Attorney General of Colombia. It seems ironic that the company responsible for one of the biggest corruption scandals in the continent's history has the opportunity to participate in an anti-corruption summit.

According to the news agency EFE, the organizers of the event have declared that "the company has embarked on a proactive mission (...) to help other companies to avoid these situations." So, how coherent is it for the Brazilian company to participate in an event about transparency that seeks to fight against corrupt practices?

First, it can be thought that it is a hypocritical movement by Odebrecht. You simply cannot send a representative to talk about anti-corruption strategies when the company has allocated USD $ 788 million in bribes to secure projects in several countries, according to the US Department of Justice.

But here is why it is necessary for the company to participate in summits like these. The construction of anti-corruption and transparency strategies are essential to better control relations between the private and the public sector from inside companies. The only thing that the Odebrecht Case proved to the citizens is how fragile the States are against corporate corruption. If the company itself is responsible for avoiding practices such as bribes in the future, in theory, there would be fewer probabilities of cases like this being repeated in the future.

However, we should not fall into naiveté either. In any case, the private sector will always seek to obtain benefits in contracting with the State. Since there are elections, companies contribute money to the campaigns of politicians that can be translated into eventual revenues. Perhaps the real problem is that relationship between politicians and private companies.

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For that, I use the United States as an example. Many of its politicians are sponsored by private organizations that force the former to defend the interests of the latter. According to the Univision news portal, the National Association of Rifles (NRA) contributed an average of USD $ 45 million a year to congressmen, to strengthen the laws against arms control. Taking into account the problem of armed violence in that country, one could question how ethical it is for politicians to continue to have ties of this type.

Take Odebrecht as an example now, that for bribing USD $ 788 million it made a profit of USD $ 3 billion. This is not money that is stolen from the public coffers, because the company wins contracts with the State in exchange for bribes. In other words, it is not a type of corruption that affects citizens directly. It's not like they stole public money.

Then, why should we care? Because these practices normalize corruption at all levels of the States. Allowing the bribery of contracts to flourish is allowing others that affect public money to be common. It is also to allow the degeneration of the institutions of the States that should be at the service of citizens.

In the end, that Odebrecht participates in an Anti-Corruption Summit can mean either a public relations strategy or a real commitment to eliminate the corrupt practices of the entire family of companies under its name. The clear thing is that more of these efforts must be made within the public and private sectors to have a greater control of fraudulent practices, while the links between politicians and companies are the target of greater scrutiny.

LatinAmerican Post | Iván Parada Hernández

Translated from "¿No es irónico que Odebrecht participe en una Cumbre Anticorrupción?"

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