As Chairman of the Australia-Africa Mining Industry Group (AAMIG) Bill Turner has spoken to audiences throughout the developed and developing world about issues relating to miners and the mining industry in general. But when Turner addresses any group that’s passionate about issues that touch corporate social conscience, often sparks will fly!
Critics of Bill Turner Inc. are furious over the founder’s stance that Australia’s criminalisation of “facilitation payments” in developing countries (specifically Africa) is a mistake. So: Does that mean that Turner is actually against criminalising the act of bribery? Let’s dig deeper into this for a moment.
Is Bribery Really Okay?
In an interview to Mining Weekly Bill Turner commented about the Australian government’s plan to outlaw facilitation payments by saying “It’s a naïve approach to the issue of bribery…”. In Turner’s opinion, removing the promise of such payments would not result in the desired goal – which is to eradicate corruption. And here’s why he said that:
- Bill Turner pointed out that these payments are only made for government services that mining companies are entitled to receive in the first place
- He also highlighted the fact that every such payment is currently well documented as part of the contract and payments process
- Outlawing these payments will not stop them from being demanded or paid. It will simply drive the process underground!
Parsing Turner’s comments it is clear that at no time does he say he supports bribery or corruption. Even skeptics in Turner’s audience will agree with the logical thoughts he advances on this issue.
Should We Believe Turner?
The short answer is – Yes! Why? Because as he often points out most such facilitation payments are made in order to pay grossly underpaid government employees in third-world and developing economies. The host governments, where these services are facilitated, are too poor themselves to offer their own employees a fair wage. As well, the facilitation payments are paid for services that would in no way offer an unfair competitive advantage which other competitors are denied.
What Turner Inc is therefore advocating really doesn’t amount to bribery – as long as the payments aren’t being made to receive illegal services. These payments might even be looked at positively in the context of some corporate social responsibilities – the duty to assist local communities rise out of poverty.
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