It has been very interesting to deliver seminars in Aberdeen and Glasgow this month on the implications of the new Bribery Act 2010. It is scheduled to come into force in April 2011 and the Ministry of Justice started consultation on guidance on anti-bribery procedures last week. The new law is set to be on the agenda for all organisations – private, public and third sectors – in the coming months.
What became clear in discussion with delegates at both seminars is that the new Act will, I think, change the perception that corruption is really only a risk for the largest corporates bidding for large, oversea government contracts. Prosecution will also be made significantly easier.
Two new aspects of the law in particular provoked discussion. The first was that people or organisations with a UK association can be prosecuted in the UK for actions carried out exclusively overseas. They will normally be judged by UK standards and not the common practice in the relevant overseas territory. This is likely to present a risk to large numbers of businesses doing business overseas who, for example, reluctantly make “facilitation payments” as it appears to be the only way to do business effectively.
Secondly, if anyone associated with an organisation commits a corrupt act (here or overseas), the organisation, as well as the individual, can be prosecuted. It does not matter that, for example, the board of directors was unaware that an agent was engaging in corrupt practices. The only defence is for the organisation to demonstrate that it had adequate anti-bribery procedures in place. This will be the focus for many organisations between now and April: reviewing current procedures or putting procedures in place for the first time.
I’m presenting a seminar in Dundee on 28 October which is open to all and I hope the discussion will help as many as possible understand how this new law is likely to affect their organisation and start thinking about any action they need to take to mitigate the risks.
To register to attend the free seminar please email firstname.lastname@example.org.