Further to our Information Update 2011/07 of 6th April 2011 when we informed you that the implementation of the Bribery Act 2010, which was due to come into force in April 2011, had been delayed.
The revised date for implementation has now been announced by the Government as 1st July 2011.
In summary the Act introduces four offences: (1) Bribing (the offering, promising or giving of an advantage); (2) Being bribed (requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting an advantage); (3) Bribing a foreign public official; and (4) the "corporate offence".
Whilst everyone will need to be aware of the above offences, it is the “Corporate Offence” which employers need to be specifically aware. A company (and it’s Directors) could find themselves liable to criminal sanctions, including fines, if they fail to prevent a person who performs services on behalf of the organisation (an employee, worker or consultant) bribing (in the UK or overseas) another person, intending either to obtain or retain business for the company, or to obtain or retain an advantage in the conduct of the company's business.
Thankfully there is a defence; the company could escape liability if it can show that it had in place "adequate procedures" to prevent bribery.
You will be unsurprised to hear that the legislation does not give a definition of adequate measures but the following suggestions have been made:
Responsibility for establishing an anti-corruption culture and programme should be taken at the highest level within the organisation and (dependent on the size of the organisation) a senior officer should be responsible for overseeing the anti-corruption programme.
There should be a clear and unambiguous code of conduct including an anti-corruption element, and procedures should be established to assess the likely risks of corruption arising in a company's business.
If you have values and ethic statements in place these should be reviewed to ensure they reflect the company position.
Employment contracts should expressly state penalties relating to corruption. (Gross Misconduct offence)
A gifts and hospitality policy to monitor receipt of gifts and entertainment should be established or reviewed if already in place.
Anti-corruption training should be provided.
There should be financial controls to minimise the scope for corrupt acts to be committed.
There should be appropriate whistleblowing procedures to enable employees to report corruption in a safe and confidential manner.
The final guidance about procedures that relevant commercial organisations can put into place to prevent persons associated with them from bribing, published by the Ministry of Justice, may ease some of the concerns. This can be found here
but be warned - it is 45 pages long!
The Government has also confirmed that the Act is not intended to include genuine corporate hospitality and that cases would be brought only where either the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Director of the Serious Fraud Office is satisfied that a prosecution is in the public interest. Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, also said he "did not expect a large number of prosecutions and certainly not for trivial cases".
If you have any queries on any aspect of the Bribery Act, or on any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact us.