Colombia: Anti-corruption and compliance

Author: | Published: 26 May 2017
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Brigard Urrutia

Address

Calle 70A # 4 - 41 Bogot√°

Telephone

+571 346 20 11

Fax

+571 310 06 09 Visit Website

Much has been said about the results of Colombia's fight against corruption; from its 90th position (out of a total of 176 countries) ranking in the Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International, to recent scandals directly affecting major infrastructure projects. Set against this background of cultural issues and perception problems, the recent wave of cross-border corruption cases (for example, Odebrecht and Canal Isabel II) has served only to set the spotlight even more firmly on Colombia as a country with a historic reputation for corruption.

Pressure from Colombia's citizens and foreign investors alike has pushed the Colombian government to step up its efforts in facing these problems. During the last few years, Colombia has enacted two major laws focused on fighting and preventing corruption: Law 1174 of 2011 (Estatuto Anticorrupcion) and Law 1778 of 2016 (Ley Antisoborno). These laws have served to further support existing laws (the Criminal Code, multiple disciplinary codes and statutes for different sectors and activities, and industry-specific regulations) and international conventions signed and ratified by Colombia (the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, the United Nations Convention against Corruption, and the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions).

Along with new regulation, new players in the fight against corruption have emerged. The Superintendence of Companies, a governmental agency that has been historically passive on this front, has been vested with administrative authority to investigate and impose fines upon both Colombian companies, and foreign parent companies and foreign subsidiaries of Colombian entities, when dealing with cases of transnational corruption.

With a complete legal arsenal and the new and old players policing the laws and regulations set in place to prevent corruption, legal and technical advisors in Colombia with strong compliance practice areas are turning their heads towards a future with new challenges. Local players have been building up robust practice areas with lawyers and IT professionals who not only have the legal and technical knowledge to put compliance programmes in place, but also the experience and resources to investigate the actions of companies and employees. These professionals also now design prevention programmes and help to create a compliance culture in local and multinational organisations. Compliance practices are going through an important evolution process in Colombia, and local firms with important compliance practice areas have been preparing for this shift for years now. A combination of resources, expertise and innovation will surely be the formula to success in this new world.

Fradique Carlos Fradique-Méndez   Jeison Larrota