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What does the new Bribery Act mean for you?
The Bribery Act comes into force today (1st July 2011.) So what does this mean for businesses?

Your organisation may be liable for failing to prevent a person from bribing on your behalf, if that person performs services for you in business. However, if you can show you had adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery, then you can defend your involvement in any such alleged actions.

Since the initial proposals were put in place they have been watered down now so that the requirements are not as onerous for smaller businesses. For example, you do not need to put bribery prevention procedures in place if having done a risk assessment, there is no risk of bribery on your behalf.

Many business owners will be relieved to hear that hospitality is not prohibited by the Act (as long as it is not lavish and disproportionate.) But remember that “facilitation” payments made to overseas public officials to speed up customs clearance or other routine functions continue to be considered to be bribes under the Act – even if permitted by other overseas countries.

Bribery is typically defined as giving someone a financial or other advantage to encourage that person to perform their functions or activities improperly or to reward that person for having already done so. So for example this could cover seeking to influence a decision-maker by giving them an extra benefit over and above what would be offered as part of a tender process.

An organisation could be liable if a senior person in the organisation commits a bribery offence – in which case it would be attributed to the organisation. In addition if you have agents or employees who pay bribes specifically to keep or gain business for your organisation this could also be considered an offence under the Act. But if you have adequate procedures in place, you may be able to avoid prosecution.

Assessing the risk of bribery will depend on the nature, size and complexity of your business. This is important because, under the Bribery Act, a company will be liable for bribery if it failed to put ‘adequate procedures’ in place to prevent it. This is the case even if the company knew nothing about the bribery. The emphasis is on the procedures the company has in place, rather than its awareness of what was going on.

The procedures that businesses consider implementing will depend on the nature of their organisations, but may include Board statements and policies; governance systems; undertaking due diligence procedures and monitoring for high risk posts; implementing stricter financial controls; updating “Whistle Blowing” procedures etc.

If you want to discuss the implications for your business or need help with any aspect of the new Act contact us on 01684 594773 or
Posted on 19 Nov 2016

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