‘Credibility’ & ‘Due Diligence’ – Mantra for Government agencies & Trade Offices

‘Credibility’ & ‘Due Diligence’ – Mantra for Government agencies & Trade Offices

Corruption is a global phenomenon with every country affected to some degree. In it’s latest release, Corruption Watchdog – Transparency International that ranks countries around the world, has positioned India 76th in it’s Corruption Perception Index.

Wikipedia lists a number of financial scams and scandals on it’s ‘List of Scandals in India’ page that perhaps better explains this position.

Foreign Missions and Trade Offices would be cognizant of this and be obviously advising caution to their citizens and businesses wishing to engage with countries of higher risk. It equally applies to their own staff who are involved in facilitating deals.

Australia, for example, has laws that can prosecute their citizens back home even if they were found involved in corruption overseas.

In today’s information age one can access data and information on any country or market quite easily. The job of a Trade Commissioner increasingly, therefore, is to provide strategic advice based on Due Diligence – of people, businesses and enquiries rather than merely forwarding unqualified information and contacts.

For businesses, big and small, there can not be a more authentic source in an overseas market than their own Missions, Trade Offices and Government agencies who they can unhesitantly trust to protect their interest. Their advice and validation is regarded inviolable and often major decisions, including investments, are made based upon this advice.

The ‘How’ and ‘Who’ to deal with in a specific country becomes the center piece of any trade advice.

The Trade Commissioner, therefore, needs to be not just extremely well informed on the country of posting but also be responsible for the advice she / he provides to their fellow Citizens. When they go on to charge their citizens a fee for their services, they also become legally accountable to their clients.

To become an Expert on countries such as India that are large, complex and evolving, sometimes one needs a bit more maturity, experience and exposure than what a normal term of posting provides to Expat Envoys. Holding out an official card can open doors but can’t make him / her an authority on the location overnight.

The shocking case of a Senior Trade Envoy’s alleged involvement in ‘spruiking’ a tainted Indian company only to join them later has made huge headlines in Australia and India and attracted massive public outcry. The damage caused by such ‘incidents’ to the reputation of Governments and Countries can be high even assuming the officer manages to prove his innocence ultimately.

The professional hazard of a bureaucrat’s name being dragged into controversies either due to his/ her naivety or professional negligence always exists. But, there certainly needs to be inbuilt mechanisms to detect and deter officers who show ‘unusually’ high level of personal involvement in certain deals, go out of their way to justify and promote ‘suspicious’ groups or charge tens and thousands of Dollars to conduct Due Diligence when there may already be sufficient adverse information available in public domain.

People have a fundamental right to question / criticise their Governments and public servants. But it will be a tragedy if they start suspecting the Integrity of their own Trade Representatives overseas and feel the need to undertake a Due Diligence on them before asking them to undertake one for them.

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