Mumbai, Oct. 17: Just when India Inc is battling a welter of accusations about crony capitalism, Transparency International has put out a report that will buttress its argument that the CBI-inspired witch hunt to name and shame some of the best-known business barons in the country is “preposterous and unwarranted”.
The report says Indian companies have the greatest commitment to fight corruption and the best internal systems in place to do so among 100 emerging market companies. They are also the most transparent in the way they report facts and figures about their businesses.
Transparency International is an independent global crusade against corruption.
Eight of the top 10 companies in the global index were Indian MNCs. Six of the eight were Tata companies — with Tata Communications, Tata Global Beverages and Tata Steel occupying the top three slots.
Hindalco Industries — which is in the eye of the storm after the CBI named chairperson Kumar Mangalam Birla and the company in its latest chargesheet over the coal block allocations — figures at number 33 with an overall index score of 4.7 out of a possible 10. There were 20 Indian MNCs that were part of the pool of 100 companies picked for the study.
The study ranked the 100 companies on the basis of publicly available data on three dimensions: reporting on anti-corruption programmes, organisational transparency and country-by-country reporting.
“Results show that companies from China lag behind in every dimension with an overall score of 20 per cent (2 out of a maximum of 10). Considering their growing influence in markets around the world, this poor performance is of concern. In contrast, Indian firms perform best in the BRICS with a result of 54 per cent (5.4 out of a maximum of 10) and several occupy the top positions in the overall Index,” the report said.
Transparency International said the information that a company reports about its anti-corruption systems is an indicator of its awareness and commitment to combating corruption. “While robust disclosure practices do not reduce all risk of corruption, they are a sign of the right tone from top management, reflecting an awareness of corruption risks and a commitment to manage them effectively that is essential for companies operating across borders,” the report added.
With an average score of 46 per cent, company performance in this dimension varies widely. Whilst some companies achieved a near-perfect score, others did not register a single point. The report said although public reporting on anti-corruption programmes was only a proxy for actual company performance in this area, weak levels of reporting may indicate poor or non-existent anti-corruption programmes and a lack of commitment to countering corruption.
But it felt there was ground for optimism as 15 companies achieved a score above 80 per cent “which demonstrates that strong performance is possible and that substantial improvement over the next few years is an attainable target”. Seven of these companies were Indian: Tata Communications, Tata Global Beverages, Tata Steel and Vedanta Resources (all with scores of 92 per cent), Bharti Airtel and TCS (85 per cent), and Tata Chemicals (81 per cent).
But several Indian companies fared poorly in this parameter: Bharat Forge (15 per cent), Larsen & Toubro (19 per cent), Bajaj Auto (31 per cent) and Hindalco (35 per cent).
However, some well-known names like Emirates Airlines, Etisalat, and Chery Automobile (China’s largest passenger car exporter which formed a 50:50 joint venture with Jaguar Land Rover last year) earned a score of zero in the anti-corruption dimension.
The other two measures were organisational transparency and country-by-country disclosures.
The study evaluates organisational transparency by assessing the amount of information companies disclose on their related holdings, particularly information on majority and minority holdings: names, percentages owned by the parent company, country of incorporation and countries of operations.
The average result for organisational transparency dimension is 54 per cent. On average, companies scored 4.3 out of 8 possible points.
Five companies achieved a perfect score of 100 per cent: Emirates Airlines of the UAE, Johnson Electric of China, Petronas of Malaysia, Shanghai Electric of China and United Company Rusal of Russia.
Larsen & Toubro and Mahindra & Mahindra were the highest-ranked Indian companies in this category with an identical score of 81 per cent.
In measuring country-by-country disclosure of international operations by the 100 emerging market companies, an industry-neutral set of criteria was used to measure the disclosure by country of financial reporting of revenues, capital expenditure, income before tax, income tax and community contributions. In this dimension, the average score was 9 per cent.
But this was more than twice the average score of 4 per cent thrown up by Transparency International’s evaluation of the largest 105 global companies in its study in 2012.
The report attributed this encouraging result among emerging market companies in large part to the 20 Indian companies in the survey “which scored an average of 29 per cent”. It should be noted that Indian law requires companies to provide key financial information on their subsidiaries, it added.
On this parameter, Lupin had the best score among Indian companies at 38 per cent, followed by Bharti Airtel and Tata Communications (34 per cent), Bharat Forge (33 per cent) and Suzlon (32 per cent). Fourteen Indian companies had a score of 30 per cent or more.
Thirty-eight companies had a score of zero including well-known Chinese companies like Haier, Lenovo, Sinochem and Chery Automobile. Petrobras of Brazil, Lukoil of Russia and Bumi Resources of Indonesia also had a score of zero.
The big surprise in the study was the middling ranking of Infosys at 29 with an overall score of 4.8. Although it scored reasonably high in anti-corruption programmes (77 per cent), its score in organisational transparency (38 per cent) and country-by-country disclosures (30 per cent) were uncharacteristically weak.