The social and economic impact of corruption is massive. It distorts competition, deters investment and above all increases the cost of goods and services. Five percent of global GDP (approximately US$ 3 trillion) is lost to corruption each year. The amount of total bribes paid annually is conservatively estimated to be US$ 1 trillion worldwide. As a comparison, the GDP of Mexico – the first Latin American country to host the G20 summit, in Los Cabos – in 2011 was US$ 1.185 trillion (official exchange rate).

In the fight against these illicit practices, the private sector has a key role to play by supporting governments to take action and by taking appropriate measures to address these challenges. G20 leaders explicitly recognized the need to strengthen their partnership with business in the Seoul Anti-Corruption Action Plan in 2010. The B20 adopted the recommendation in their Cannes Declaration in November and now, in Los Cabos, the time has come to take the next steps.

In an open letter to the G20, the B20 Working Group on Improving Transparency and Anti-Corruption has identified the top five measures that both companies and governments can take to carry the fight against corruption forward:

  • The mandate for the B20 Working Group on Improving Transparency and Anti-Corruption must be extended and needs to continue working on the implementation of the Seoul Anti-Corruption action plan.
  • The G20 needs to identify a pilot country (potentially Mexico) to explore possible areas for enhancement of the private sector role in the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
  • The G20 and the B20 Working Group on Improving Transparency and Anti-Corruption have to work on streamlining and improving public procurement processes through the use of OECD Integrity reviews and other such mechanisms.
  • Together, the G20 and B20 Working Group on Improving Transparency and Anti-Corruption have to establish a better mechanism to look into allegations of solicitation of bribes by public officials, and endorse the setting up of a pilot project in a country willing to test such mechanisms.
  • The B20 Working Group on Improving Transparency and Anti-Corruption calls on the G20 to support the development of anti-corruption capacity-building programmes tailored to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in specific industries.

We are now at a moment when the world is looking to the G20 to make a stronger commitment to work together with the B20 to address the major challenge of corruption that is prevailing in our global economy. The B20 Working Group on Improving Transparency and Anti-Corruption, with the support of the International Chamber of Commerce and the World Economic Forum, remains committed to lead and facilitate business engagement with G20 leaders at Los Cabos and beyond, to further advance the global anti-corruption agenda. Let’s get to work.

Author: Alex Wong is Head of Basic Industries of the World Economic Forum, including the Partnering against Corruption Initiative (PACI). Learn more under http://www.weforum.org/issues/partnering-against-corruption-initiative

Pictured: Soldiers walk near a sign of the G20 summit on a beach in Los Cabos. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo