Bribery – undermining free and fair competition.

In a recent case (Jan 2017) Rolls Royce were ordered to pay over £600 million in fines under a DPA (Deferred Prosecution Agreement) which resulted in the company escaping prosecution. Such arrangements lead many to question whether this takes the sting out of Bribery legislation and therefore renders it less effective. Whatever the case, businesses have an obligation take steps to combat bribery in the workplace.

Under the Bribery Act 2010 it is illegal to engage in any activity that could constitute a bribe defined as the offer to give, receive, or accept any kind of ‘sweetener’. Any commercial organisation would be liable to prosecution if an employee or person associated with it bribes a 3rd party with the intention of gaining an unfair business advantage.

The Bribery Act came into force as a result of the government’s commitment to promote free and fair competition and the desire to remove any unfair advantage that can result from bribery. So what does this mean for businesses?

An anti-bribery policy can help protect your business however the failure to implement it effectively can be severe as bribery constitutes a criminal offence. The penalty is up to 10 years’ imprisonment or a substantial, unlimited fine for the business. However, there is another dimension to the issue….

Practical steps: Under current UK legislation businesses are required to have an anti-bribery policy. The policy should be appropriate to the level of risk your business faces. Consider…

  • How you intend to manage the risks surrounding bribery. This requires commitment from senior management
  • Effective implementation of policies. Bribery policies must be imbedded in the culture; this requires clear, consistent communication and often training to cement the commitment.
  • Clear guidance on how employee/managers conduct business e.g. negotiating contracts. Be clear on what employees can or cannot do.
  • Mitigate against conflicts of interest – assess the risks, apply policies and practices that are appropriate for that level of risk, monitor and review.

To be effective, anti-bribery practices must be implemented across the organisation. Employees should be encouraged to speak up if they are in any way compromised and not to delay in sharing information with managers. Companies have a duty to report incidences to the Serious Fraud Office who will make an assessment as to whether further action (including prosecution) is required.

Key bribery indicators:

  • Is pressure being exerted to influence 3rd party impartiality
  • Are any ‘gifts’ offered proportionate or excessive
  • Consider the motive behind gift giving
  • Evaluate the risks

So, if bribery is identified as a risk within in your organisation how can you counter it?

The Royal Bank of Scotland engaged The Garnett Foundation to provide bribery awareness training for their clients. The training was based on meticulous research and delivered using drama based scenarios surrounding the key aspects of due diligence, discovery and self-reporting. For more information on how our training can help your organisation manage the risk, please call us 01494-794264.