ICAC reports a slight rise in reports of corruption involving private companies More than 1,000 listed companies will be asked to draw up a code of conduct for their staff under a two-year anti-corruption campaign launched this month by the ICAC. The number of complaints involving the private sector has remained high since the Asia financial crisis in 1997, the Independent Commission Against Corruption says. Helen Lee Ching Po-han, of the ICAC's community relations department, said there had been 50 serious commercial corruption cases during the past six years, each of which involved bribes or fraud worth at least $1 million. The ICAC received 3,678 complaints of corruption in the first 10 months of this year and 57 per cent, or 2,095 cases, involved the private sector. This represents a slight rise over the same period last year, when 2,075 of the 3,780 corruption reports received involved private companies. Mrs Lee said 'quite a number' of the cases involved senior management. One of the most common crimes was the use of fraudulent means to obtain bank loans or letters of credit. Some companies also exaggerated their profits so they could be listed on the market. She attributed the high level of corruption reports to unscrupulous attempts to keep businesses afloat during the economic downturn and the heightened vigilance in companies for business irregularities. Under the ICAC campaign, launched earlier this month, companies are being asked to work out a code of conduct as well as strengthen monitoring systems and anti-corruption training for their staff. Mrs Lee said a similar campaign was launched in 1994 when 70 per cent of the 500 listed companies at the time had worked out a code of conduct for their staff. 'It's been nine years now and we would like them to review and update their code,' she said. Mrs Lee said new corruption pitfalls had arisen in the changing business environment, such as the increase in the use of technology and cross-border trade. 'It may be easier for employees to obtain company information because of computerisation. But whether they would leak the information in exchange for personal gain is another question,' she said. She said some small and medium-sized companies which managed factories on the mainland were concerned about how they could prevent corrupt practices by their staff across the border. Mrs Lee said the new campaign would be extended to small and medium-sized companies in 2005. The ICAC would also work out anti-corruption guidelines and bring in education kits for them to train their mainland staff next year. The chairman of the Hong Kong Institute of Directors, Herbert Hui Ho-ming, said his organisation would also help instil the ICAC's anti-corruption values among directors as it was important for them to understand the importance of integrity, transparency and accountability. He said the institute recommended that all newly appointed company directors should undergo training in anti-corruption measures and it would also work out a set of corporate governance guidelines for small and medium-sized firms.