Bribery Act - steps to consider
Management teams have undertaken considerable amounts of work looking at the requirements of the Bribery Act.
Most concern has surrounded the requirement in section 7, the failure by a commercial organisation to prevent bribery, but many businesses have also taken the opportunity to review existing procedures and to ensure they are updated and reviewed. Have businesses put everything in place for the 1st July? Probably not, but the Act is clear that this is a continual process and management teams should update and improve policies and procedures.
Where have the teams started? They have looked at the guidance issued by the Ministry of Justice and have gained some comfort from the comments that bribery is rare and that the guidance is clear that the actions businesses should take should be proportionate to the risks they face and their size.
The starting point for many has been the clear statement that the business culture is one where bribery is never acceptable. The statement should be clear that the business has a zero tolerance to bribery and is committed to carry out business fairly, openly and honestly. This statement must be communicated to employees, agents, customers and suppliers. It could be included in the employee handbook, as a standalone statement, be added to terms and conditions of business and/or be added to agency contracts.
The teams have then looked at what else is required and what is desirable. Many have taken this opportunity to firm up codes of conduct and policies. For example, many have looked at supplier engagement policies, revisited how their agents work for them, looked at customer’s terms and have reviewed the publicised area of risk of hospitality.
What is clear is that the business’s management team should make sure that they have the ability to hear about risks, both perceived and actual. A good and clear whistle-blowing procedure is required. They also need to ensure that a training program on ethical business practice and policies is undertaken.
A large number of businesses have looked carefully at whistle-blowing procedures to ensure confidential whistle-blowing is available to employees, agents or other business partners via internal audit teams or senior compliance officers.
A quick check would be; do I have the following in place:
- anti bribery policy and statement
- a code of conduct
- whistle-blowing guidance
- a training program.
Have I undertaken a risk assessment of my business? Have I started by asking the simple questions:
- where do we operate?
- who do we work with?
Have I then assessed where the risk of bribery exists? Do I have policies proportionate to the risk and proportionate to the size of my business?