The road to improving integrity in the private and public sectors
It is no secret that the Western Balkans region continues to struggle in its post-conflict transition with corruption, non-compliance, and nepotism. This is has undermined economic growth, fair-play market rules, and strategic foreign investment. Unfortunately, anti-corruption laws have proved to be ineffective without standards and processes that enforce such laws. Compliance programs represent a proven mechanism for encouraging people to make appropriate, compliant and legal decisions.
The East Sarajevo-based West-East Forum for Ethics and Compliance (WEFEC), in cooperation with the US-based Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE), has developed an innovative approach to public sector compliance regulations based on corporate compliance best practices from international corporate compliance standards called the Public Integrity Act. According to WEFEC President Bojan Bajic, who received the prestigious SCCE award for his contribution to promoting ethics and compliance in the world, it all began with a whistleblower incident.
‘Everything started when I met Bosnia’s famous whistleblower, my current colleague Visnja Marilovic, who reported a $2 million corruption scandal in a public company. She was exposed to a very aggressive retaliation and, as a member of a small advocacy NGO, I thought that the best way to save her from this dilemma was to turn this unfortunate incident into something productive. So we joined forces and lobbied for the first whistleblower laws in Bosnia and Herzegovina which will help and encourage others to continue to report violations and corruption.’
That led to Bojan founding NetConsulting which offers ethics and compliance training to both companies and public institutions, such as the Ministry of Defense. His experience in private sector integrity issues had always faced uphill battles, however, because of the challenges of corruption in the public sector. So he founded the West East Forum for Ethics and Compliance to tackle what he saw as the biggest issue. WEFEC aims to promote the concept of the Public Integrity Act within public sector institutions that introduces effective and robust public sector compliance standards that will minimalize corruption and spur economic growth and attracting foreign investments.
The West-East Forum for Ethics and Compliance main goal is to utilize the proven best practices from US Corporate Ethics and Compliance regulations on compliance programs and compliance officers in order to introduce them at the public sector level to address the specific complexities of corruption in transitional and developing countries. They aim to begin the process to eradicate the culture of corruption that handicaps economic growth, rule of law, and obstructs foreign investment by mobilizing leaders of integrity from the business, public, and civil society sectors to create a healthy, fair play market environment that provides effective, long-term solutions to the crippling effects of public sector and corporate corruption. We are convinced that effective compliance programs for western corporations can be a model for government and public sector itself that will enable us to bridge the gaps in compliance and ethics in many eastern countries.
Their team researches and investigates existing legislation and anti-corruption measures in order to draft the most practical and realistic legislation for the public sector that incorporate compliance programs and compliance officers as effective mechanisms based on best practices from US Corporate Compliance & Ethics standards. Where we differ from traditional Compliance & Ethics practices is that we involve the business community and civil society in creating the legal framework for compliance to implement within the public sector. Through their work with corporate C&E standards they realized the importance of compliance standards within the public sector as well. Without effective and comprehensive compliance mechanisms, anti-corruption laws are often simply paper tigers. C&E in government and the public sector in order to create a healthy, fair play market environment that will continue to stimulate and support business and the economy
Bajic concludes, ‘the reasons why I got involved in this, where there is not equal opportunities for all and where corruption and bribery is the first and main option instead of behaving ethically, countries in transition need ethics and compliance at the public level as well as the corporate level. This is where we see our experience having a widespread effect. The non-profit West East Forum for Ethics and Compliance understands the imperative to introducing best practices from corporate compliance and ethics from the US into the public sector of developing countries, particularly in the ‘east’ like the Western Balkans, Caucasus’, and Central Asia. The geo-political struggles tug-of-war in these regions are directly correlated to the lack of compliance and ethics…and this is where we believe we can make a meaningful change so that we can live in moral and ethical societies. We know there are great obstacles in spreading compliance in the developing world but we feel being that we come from a post-conflict transitional country that we understand the dynamics and culture of corruption and nepotism perhaps better than westerners. We hope to bridge that gap between West and East culture of compliance. ‘