Ignoring the implications of the Bribery Act, which has now come into force, could have major consequences for SME’s, according to the UKBA network, a nationwide team of professional advisors.
Companies need to adopt a robust policy to ensure that bribery does not take place, as doing nothing can mean jail for the directors concerned.
In business there has always been legislation that could result in fines for doing nothing. Health and Safety legislation tightened the grip and transgression could result in a prison sentence if found guilty of wilful negligence.
The Bribery Act 2010 received Royal Assent on the 8th April 2010 and became law on the 1st April 2011, now extending the threat of jail for doing nothing even further as failure to prevent bribery is also an offence under the act.
A quick visit to the government website www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/23/contents confirms the potential threat to companies if they fail to consider the gravity of the situation.
For example, a commercial organisation could be found guilty of an offence under this act, if a person associated with the company bribes another person intending to obtain or retain business for the firm, or to obtain or retain an advantage in the conduct of business for the company.
So, in essence, the company may be guilty of an offence even if the directors were unaware of the bribery taking place. However, the law stipulates that it is a defence for the company if they can prove that they had in place adequate procedures designed to prevent associated persons from undertaking such conduct.
The key areas to cover against are:
- Bribing another person
- Taking a bribe
- Bribery of foreign public officials
- Failure to prevent bribery
Not only does the individual risk receiving a custodial sentence with all that that entails; the company may end up with fines far outweighing any profit on the transaction, and sanctions may be taken against the company losing “preferred bidder” status or being blacklisted altogether. Would you deal with a company that allowed a culture of bribery to persist?
The UKBA team is able to assess the vulnerability of SME’s and can advise on the relevant processes to put in place to ensure that each company has a robust ‘anti-bribery’ policy to ensure it is adequately covered. It is better to take advice from the outset than risk falling foul of the law further down the line.