If you are in business or sales at any level and been in competition for work, I’ll bet that at some point you have wondered just why certain companies always seem to ‘win that order’! The suspicion of ‘back handers’ or ‘bungs’ may have ricocheted around your mind.
Well, now something formal is to be done about curbing those improper practices and giving everyone a level playing field on which to compete but does this also leave each one of us in business open to accusation?
The Bribery Act comes into force on 1 July 2011 and could have implications for all of us.
What is the Bribery Act 2010?
The Bribery Act comes into force on 1 July 2011 and will make it a criminal offence for an individual or commercial organisation to offer or receive a bribe to bring about or reward the improper performance of a function or activity.
The Act creates four new bribery offences:
• Offering a bribe
• Receiving a bribe
• Bribery of a foreign public official
• Failing to prevent bribery
What are the offences under the Bribery Act?
The Act punishes those who bribe as well as those who turn a blind eye. The most relevant offence to employers is the "corporate offence", which applies where a commercial organisation (including companies and partnerships) fails to prevent persons performing services on its behalf from committing bribery and the offence can be committed in the UK or overseas.
If a company is found guilty of corporate bribery, both the company and its directors could be subject to criminal sanctions, including fines.
What can organisations do to reduce the risks?
An organisation may escape liability if it can show that it had in place "adequate procedures" designed to prevent those persons performing services on its behalf from committing bribery. In this regard, proportionality is the key, although all organisations must consider bribery, the greater the risk of bribery, the more an organisation should do.
It may be necessary for large organisations or organisations operating in overseas markets, where bribery is known to be commonplace, to do more to prevent it, compared to smaller organisations or those operating in markets where bribery is not prevalent.
It is advised that all organisations should:-
1. Implement Bribery Prevention Policies.
2. Amend Contracts of Employment/Staff Handbooks.
3. Update whistleblowing procedures – to provide employees with a confidential and accessible means of raising suspicious activities.
4. Training - Policies should be communicated effectively to staff, customers, suppliers and anyone associated with your organisation.
5. Consider including anti-bribery clauses into commercial contracts.
6. Undertake due diligence before entering into arrangements with other parties.
7. Consider appointing a senior manager to have responsibility for bribery prevention.
If you are unsure about how this may affect your company it may be appropriate to have a legal professional review your contracts, policies and procedures to ensure that they adequately address bribery and corruption risks.
It’s always worth acting on matters like this well before you get yourself into trouble!
Member since: 4th July 2012
I am David Ramsden, owner of thebestof bolton.