I have heard that new anti-corruption laws will affect all UK businesses. What should I know?

 

The Bribery Act 2010 was one of the last pieces of legislation passed by the Labour government and was created to reform anti-corruption laws created ad hoc over the last 100 years.


The act was due to come into force in October, but government officials confirmed in August that its implementation has now been put back until April 2011, to give companies time to prepare. The act introduces tough new anti-corruption regulations that will affect every employer in the country, regardless of whether it operates in the public, private or third sector.


It moves the UK’s approach to tackling corruption closer to that of the US and introduces four new bribery offences:

• Making a bribe

• Accepting a bribe

• Bribery of a foreign public official

• Failing to prevent bribery is now a corporate offence


When the act is brought into force, it will mean that any organisation that negligently fails to prevent bribery by those performing services on its behalf will be open to prosecution and harsh penalties. Performing services are interpreted as including employees, agents and subsidiaries, depending upon the circumstances.


If an employer is found guilty of the corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery, the organisation will face an unlimited fine subject to the scale of the offence, and could be banned from bidding for EU public contracts. Meanwhile, individuals could be subject to ten years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine if found guilty of the general bribery offences.



Being prepared

The delay to the enforcement of the act has been made to give organisations a chance to prepare for its ramifications. The only defence for the corporate offence is that of showing that an organisation has “adequate procedures” in place to prevent bribery on its behalf.

While what is ‘adequate’ will differ depending upon an organisation’s size and sector, all employers are being urged to use this time to create clear guidelines detailing why bribery is unacceptable and their approach to accusations of corruption.


Having a documented system will help show they have taken steps to prevent bribery, however larger organisations may want to take further steps such as:


• An anti-corruption code of conduct

• Establishing procedures for assessing the risk of corruption

• A gifts’ and hospitality policy to monitor gifts and entertainment

• Procedures to enable employees to report bribery confidentially

• Training for those who have to enforce policies and for employees on expected standards of behaviour.

 

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