Business owners are bracing themselves for the Bribery Act guidance being announced by the Ministry of Justice today.
The Bribery Act, which will come into force on July 1, will allow the UK to clamp down on corruption without being a burden on business, says Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke.
Releasing the Bribery Act guidance this morning, Clarke said he had “listened carefully to business representatives to ensure the Bribery Act is implemented fully and in a workable, common-sense way”, and stressed his understanding that a practical solution is “particularly important for small firms that have limited resources”.
He continued: "Some have asked whether business can afford the Bribery Act legislation – especially at a time of economic recovery. But the choice is a false one. We don't have to decide between tackling corruption and supporting growth. Addressing bribery is good for business because it creates the conditions for free markets to flourish."
Business Secretary Vince Cable stated: "Bribery has no place in British business, at home or abroad. The Bribery Act reflects the UK's leading role in the fight against bribery, updates regulation dating back to 1906 and paves the way for competitive but fair practice."We have listened to the concerns from business. That's why today we are minimising regulatory burdens and publishing easy-to-understand guidance and a guide for small and medium-sized companies three months before the Bribery Act will come into force. This will give these businesses time to prepare."
So, what does the Bribery Act mean for you?
In short, the Bribery Act will:
- Introduce a corporate offence of failure to prevent bribery by persons working on behalf of a business. A business can avoid conviction if it can show that it has adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery;
- Make it a criminal offence to give, promise or offer a bribe and to request, agree to receive or accept a bribe either at home or abroad. The measures cover bribery of a foreign public official; and
- Increase the maximum penalty for bribery from seven to ten years imprisonment, with an unlimited fine.
Key points about the Bribery Act:
- Your business may be liable for failing to prevent a person from bribing on your behalf, but only if that person performs services for you in business. In other words, it's very unlikely that you will be liable for the actions of someone who simply supplies goods to you;
- There is a full defence if you can show you had adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery. You do not need to put bribery-prevention procedures in place if there is no risk of bribery on your behalf; and
- Hospitality is not prohibited by the Bribery ActFacilitation payments are bribes under the Act just as they are under the old law