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ACCA research says 59% of SMEs and their advisers globally believe that standing up to bribery and corruption will result in lost business opportunities

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Mumbai: A new ACCA report, Bribery and corruption: The hidden social evil on your doorstep, delves into the true extent of how bribery and corruption impacts SMEs across the world, highlighting the pressing need for enhanced transparency and robust regulatory frameworks.

The research shows a high prevalence and deep concerns about the damaging impact of bribery and corruption on SMEs, with 59% [Africa 66%, Asia Pacific 63%, UK 46%, Western Europe (incl UK) 45%] of SMEs and their advisers believing that standing up to bribery and corruption will cost them business trade or opportunities.

But the survey also reveals a strong understanding of the benefits of standing up to bribery and corruption. 77% [Africa 64%, Asia Pacific 68%, UK 67% Western Europe (incl UK) 74%] agree that having a strong anti-bribery policy boosts customer confidence in their business, and 68% [Africa 85%, Asia Pacific 83%, UK 68%, Western Europe (incl UK) 70%] say it increases their chances of getting lucrative contracts with big businesses and public sector bodies.

Jason Piper, ACCA’s Head of Tax and Business Law, said: “Corruption is a poison; it distorts markets, stunts economic growth, and deters investment.”

“Many very small businesses don’t have the bargaining power to refuse when small bribes are demanded of them. Entrepreneurs have to choose between paying the bribe or losing the business – and often that is no choice at all for someone trying to support a family.”

“Our report aims to arm businesses and regulators with the necessary insights and tools to root out corruption and foster an environment of transparency and trust. This could include the use of the latest digital tools. Just as technology is being used by criminals, so regulators and enforcement agencies should embrace it in the battle to detect, prevent and respond to them.”

Md. Sajid Khan, Director – India, ACCA, said: “There is a pressing necessity for the international business community to address issues of bribery and corruption. Enhancing regulatory frameworks and leveraging technology are essential in this regard. Professional accountants are instrumental in uncovering anomalies and upholding financial integrity. Emphasising ACCA’s dedication to this cause, this report draws attention to the skills and ethical standards required to combat bribery and corruption, thereby fostering a more equitable and sustainable global business landscape.”

Drawing from a broad spectrum of global data, expert opinions, and real-world case studies, the report explores the multifaceted impacts of corrupt practices on SMEs and economic development. It highlights the severe consequences that businesses can face, including legal penalties and severe damage to their reputations.

The report also considers the effectiveness of current anti-corruption laws and policies across different countries, suggesting that while some progress has been made, much remains to be done to align international efforts.

Piper added: ‘As global markets become increasingly interconnected, the imperative for accountability and ethical business practices becomes more pronounced.

ACCA hopes this report will serve as a catalyst for change, encouraging entities across all sectors to evaluate their practices and align with the best standards of business conduct.

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