The Bribery Act – Have you Reviewed your Procedures?

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Although The Bribery Act came into force in 2010, many small businesses are unaware of the implications of falling foul of this far-reaching piece of legislation. Significant changes were introduced which will affect every business no matter what their size. So what does the Act cover?
  • The crime of bribery is now extended to cover all private sector transactions whereas previously it was confined to pubic officials and agents.
  • A new strict liability has been created for failing to prevent bribery.
  • Its scope reaches countries outside the UK and so caution will need to be taken if you operate in overseas markets.
  • Criminal penalties can be awarded against individuals and organisations.
There are four offences:
  1. Offering, promising or giving a bribe
  2. Requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting a bribe
  3. Bribing a foreign official to obtain or retain business
  4. Failure of an organisation to prevent bribery by those acting on its behalf
It is possible for a company to commit an offence if a person who is in any way associated with it bribes another person in order for the Company to gain. This could therefore include employees, sub-contractors, agents, consultants or suppliers, etc. What defence is there? Provided that a company can prove that they have adequate procedures in place to prevent a bribe, they will have a defence. What would be considered “adequate” will depend upon the bribery risks faced by each individual organisation, together with the size and nature of the business. The Act defines six principles that should be considered to help Companies decide what is “adequate”, as follows:
  1. Proportionality – depends on the size of your business, the markets in which you work and the type of risks that you face.
  2. Top Level Commitment – ensure that everyone from the business owner downwards, together with people you carry out business with, understand the company will not tolerate bribery of any form.
  3. Risk Assessment – think about potential risks. You may find this Government-sponsored website helpful:
  4. Due Diligence – Check out the people you are dealing with and make sure they are trustworthy.
  5. Communication – Make sure that all staff are aware of your policies and procedures. We suggest training all staff with a written declaration from each stating they have been made aware of the requirements of the Act and the implications of committing an offence under the Act.
  6. Monitoring and Reviewing – Regularly monitor and review your procedures as things change within your business.
It really is worth taking this seriously as penalties can be up to ten years’ imprisonment for individuals and or an unlimited fine and unlimited fines for companies. A recent Crown Court judgement against a company that was found guilty of bribing foreign officials states that fines for corruption should be in the tens of millions! So, what do you need to do?
  • If you have no anti-corruption policies and procedures in place then consider implementing them as soon as possible
  • If you do have anti-corruption policies and procedures in place, then review them and make sure they are up to date and reflect the current needs of the business
  • Carry out a risk-assessment to identify potential risks
  • Ensure that everyone associated with the Company is aware of the policies and procedures

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