You may have set up procedures when the Bribery Act came into force in 2011, but it may be time to check whether your current crop of employees is up to speed.
Earlier this year, Westminster Planning Committee chairman Robert Davies had to refer himself to Westminster’s monitoring officer, following reports that he had been entertained on more than 500 occasions in three years – including 150 times by property industry figures.
There were further allegations of “lavish” paid overseas trips and events amounting to a total of 893 gifts or hospitality received over some six years.
Some commentators suggested that checks be made for any breaches of the Bribery Act 2010 by the giver or the receiver.
Mr Davies resigned his post following the reports, though he denies any wrongdoing, stating that everything had been declared as required by the authority. We continue to await the monitoring officer’s decision.
Although there have been relatively few prosecutions by the Serious Fraud Office under the Bribery Act, there may well be a renewed impetus from enforcement bodies – including the CPS – to be seen to be on the ball in carrying out checks and investigations.
The hospitality balance
Corporate hospitality and gifts form a regular and legitimate part of business.
Invitations to a senior business contact to join you and colleagues for a day at the tennis, with lunch and drinks provided, is an effective and enjoyable way of strengthening connections and social networks – and legal.
“What is permissible depends not only on value but on a range of factors, which means greater care is needed by businesses”
But if your offer is to give top-range tickets to the contact to attend an expensive sporting event with first-class travel and expensive meals and drinks throughout, where neither you nor any colleagues will be present, will that fall foul of the Bribery Act?
Yes, depending on intent, timing and proportionality.
The Bribery Act does not set a maximum value for hospitality or gift. What is permissible depends not only on value but on a range of factors, which means greater care is needed by businesses.
Most businesses, including those in the construction industry, set up ‘adequate procedures’ to ensure compliance with the Bribery Act 2010 requirements when it became law. Doing so properly can provide your business with a defence to any possible prosecution for breach by an employee.
But it’s been almost seven years since the act came into force in July 2011, and senior employees will have changed in many businesses in that time, along with the level of care and attention anti-bribery processes receive.
If you have not reviewed your procedures since introduction, they are not ‘adequate’ in any event and will not provide a defence.
Are you Bribery Act-compliant?
Below is a checklist to help you become compliant:
- Review your anti-corruption and bribery policy, especially if it has not been reviewed in the last two years. Is it still relevant, clear and understandable?
- Conduct a fresh risk assessment of the business so new clients, business activity, and geographical regions are properly considered.
- Check records of hospitality, gifts and expenses (given, received or refused) to identify any causes for concern, worrying patterns and to ensure records are being kept.
- Re-assess your internal guidance to staff on upper limits for hospitality, gifts and expenses.
- Update written anti-corruption and bribery policies, including a clear prohibition on hospitality and gifts which may or be seen to influence a contract. Communicate them to all employees and provide focused training again, as part of a high-level reminder.
- Ensure whistleblowing procedures are in place and known about internally.
- Check your anti-corruption and bribery policies are notified to all clients, business partners and suppliers.
- Insert clear anti-bribery clauses in all contracts.
Alison Downie is a partner in the employment team at Goodman Derrick