On the 1th July 2011 the Bribery Act 2010 came into force. It introduces a strict liability corporate bribery offence and if found guilty both a Company and its Directors could be subject to criminal penalties including a potentially unlimited fine and/or up to 10 years in jail. If your company is found guilty it could also be permanently debarred from tendering for public service contracts.
So, what is Bribery? “The offering, promising, giving, accepting or soliciting of an advantage as an inducement for an action which is illegal or a breach of trust” (Transparency International definition).
The new offences can be summarised as:
- Bribing another person;
- Being bribed;
- Bribing a foreign public official; and
- Failing to prevent Bribery.
Actions can be brought even if the activities have no connection with the UK and are performed outside the UK.
It is a defence however for the organisation to have adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery.
What you can do to prepare your businesses for the New Act?
Training — ensure your Directors and senior management understand they could be personally liable under the Act for offences committed by the business.
Risk Assessment — make sure you understand the risks your business may be exposed to. Certain industry sectors working in certain countries may present a greater risk. Review how your business entertains potential customers especially those from government agencies, state owned enterprises or charitable organisations. Despite scare mongering it is unlikely that your annual day at the races with clients will fall foul of the new legislation but it is worth checking to see whether your existing entertainment is proportionate and the introduction of the act should lead to a review and formulation of a corporate hospitality and gifts policy
Policies and Procedures — review any existing anti corruption policies and update them if necessary and implement a code of conduct to apply to the entire business.
Third parties — your company would still be liable for offences committed by a sub contractor or agent without your knowledge but on you behalf. It’s worth undertaking due diligence on any third party you are considering going into business with to ensure they also have anti corruption policies and comply with the terms of the Act.
Staff Handbooks — as part of your commitment to training it would probably be worth reviewing and, if necessary, updating your staff handbook to cover the anti—bribery obligations.