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The Bribery Act – what you should know

Published: 05/10/11

The Bribery Act came into force at the end of June and is designed to bring the UK in line with the rest of the world on anti-corruption legislation.

The Act makes it a criminal offence to give or receive a bribe or for failure to prevent bribery. Many organisations face little or no risk and the Act should not be used to stop corporate entertainment and the like. However the Ministry of Justice does provide a guide to the Act and the ‘adequate procedures’ that you must have in place.

What counts as adequate will depend on the bribery risks that your business faces, i.e. incorporating the nature, size, location and complexity of your business. So, a small or medium-sized UK business that faces minimal risk will require minimal procedures to mitigate those risks.

The following six principles taken from the Ministry’s guide can help you decide, what, if anything, you need to do differently:

  1. Proportionality: The action you take should be proportionate to the risks you face and to the size of your business. So you might need to do more to prevent bribery if your organisation is large, or if you are operating in an overseas market where bribery is known to be commonplace.
  2. Top Level Commitment: Those at the top of an organisation are in the best position to ensure their organisation conducts business without bribery. You may also want to get personally involved in taking the necessary proportionate action to address any bribery risks.
  3. Risk Assessment: Think about the bribery risks you might face. For example, research the markets that you operate in and the people you deal with, especially if you are entering into new business arrangements and new markets overseas.
  4. Due Diligence: Knowing exactly who you are dealing with can help to protect your organisation from taking on people who might be less than trustworthy.
  5. Communication (including training): Internal - convey top level commitment and possibly include written policies on decision making, financial control, hospitality/promotional expenditure, facilitation payments, training, charitable and political donations and penalties for breach of rules plus management roles at different levels. Also important is the setup of a secure, confidential and accessible means for anyone to raise concerns. External - may include company code of conduct; making public bribery prevention procedures, controls, sanctions and internal survey results.
  6. Monitoring and Review: The risks you face and the effectiveness of your procedures may change over time so keep an eye on the anti-bribery steps you have taken so that they keep pace with any changes in the bribery risks you face when, for example, you enter new markets.

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