Preventing bribery should be the concern of every business. It’s also a legal requirement.
It may well be that you’re familiar with rules regarding money laundering, which apply to businesses in a number of specific sectors. There’s an associated set of rules, however, connected with the 2010 Bribery Act. In my experience, people tend to be less aware of them, but they are just as important.
Essentially, the Act covers situations in which your staff might be induced or coerced into doing something which is fraudulent, illegal or unethical in return for an incentive. This could, of course, include money laundering and tax evasion, but actually extends far beyond. It is essential that your staff are aware of such potential scenarios and are not put into difficult situations, where they inadvertently accept a gift or incentive which would be deemed unusual or excessive and which could later be used as a form of bribery.
Therefore, from a business perspective, it’s important that members of staff are trained to identify situations when an approach or a particular pattern of behaviour looks strange and needs to be reported either under the Money Laundering Regulations or within the terms of the Bribery Act itself. My recommendation is that you consider introducing such training as part of an induction process.
If you fail to prevent or report bribery, you’re committing an offence, so it’s in everybody’s interests that you have proper procedures in place. Of course genuine hospitality – if it’s reasonable and proportionate – doesn’t fall foul of the rules. So the context and nature of the relationship is absolutely critical.
Here are the six key principles that you need to observe, according to government guidance:
- Proportionate Procedures – these need to be appropriate ‘to the nature, scale and complexity of the commercial organisation’s activities’.
- Top-level Commitment – the management of your organisation needs to foster a culture in which bribery is never acceptable.
- Risk Assessment – commercial organisations must assess the nature and extent of their exposure to potential external and internal risks of bribery.
- Due Diligence – you must take ‘a proportionate and risk based approach’ in respect of persons who perform or will perform services for, or on behalf of, the organisation.
- Communication (including training) – your bribery prevention policies and procedures need to be embedded throughout your organisation.
- Monitoring and Review – it’s essential to review your policies and make improvements where appropriate.
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