Anti bribery compliance
The Bribery Act 2010 significantly extended the scope and seriousness of UK bribery offences. It is illegal to offer, promise, give, request, agree, receive or accept bribes. The legislation was put in place to effect widespread culture change so that businesses no longer regard the payment of bribes in certain industries or countries as an unwelcome but necessary ‘fact of life’ and are prepared to miss out on a business opportunity rather than pay a bribe.
The Act requires organisations to have ‘adequate procedures’ in place. What is adequate will depend on the bribery risks you face and the nature, size and complexity of your business.
Having a defined anti-bribery policy and procedures can help companies to entrench this new approach into corporate culture and demonstrate that they have implemented measures to prevent bribery from taking place.
What does the Bribery Act mean for your organisation?
Business owners can be held liable
The Act notably introduced a new clause – ‘Failure of commercial organisations to prevent bribery’ – that requires organisations to take active steps to prevent bribery occurring or be considered guilty of an offence. This offence is committed if a person “associated with” a commercial organisation (such as an employee or contractor) bribes another to win or retain business or to gain a competitive advantage. Worryingly for business owners and senior management, they can be held liable, irrespective of whether they had any knowledge of the bribe.
The only defence (apart from contesting the facts, of course) is for the company to demonstrate it had ‘adequate procedures’ in place designed to prevent bribery and it is this provision that effectively forces businesses to implement an anti-bribery policy.
Mitigating the risk
With the legislation taking a zero tolerance approach to infractions, one understandable concern is how this affects the giving and receiving of corporate hospitality through entertainment or gifts. The Act does not prohibit hospitality and, as a general proposition, hospitality or promotional expenditure which is proportionate and reasonable given the sort of business you do is very unlikely to engage the Act. However, it is very important that your company makes it clear what types of hospitality it considers to be proportionate and reasonable.
What can Bridgehouse do to assist?
If you have compliance concerns and want to protect yourself and your business, Bridgehouse Company Secretaries can help. Our anti-bribery services include assistance with six key principles:
- Conducting a risk assessment to ascertain any bribery risks you might face
- Helping to ascertain what are the proportionate actions you need to take to comply including the drafting and implementing of an anti-bribery policy
- Advising the Board on how to show top level commitment
- Assisting with any required due diligence checks on suppliers (especially those based overseas)
- Developing awareness-raising communications and training on your anti-bribery measures
- Providing ongoing monitoring and review
If you would like expert help on how to implement your anti-bribery compliance measures, please get in touch.