1. Now is the time to take action. Waiting until the Act is implemented is too late as undertaking a comprehensive risk assessment, training and implementation process takes time. It pays to be prepared rather than take a reactive approach.
2. Understand the legislation. There are four potential criminal offences in the Act. A person is guilty of an offence where they offer, promise or give a financial advantage to another person. To request, agree to receive or accept a bribe is also an offence as is bribing a foreign official. The final offence is failing to prevent bribery on a commercial organisations behalf.
3. Be aware of the penalties for failing to comply. If a company is found guilty of any bribery offence it could face an unlimited fine. Individuals found guilty of an offence could face an unlimited fine and/or a maximum of ten years prison sentence.
4. Know the extra territorial jurisdiction. The failure to prevent bribery offence applies to any corporate or partnership (whenever it is registered, incorporated or conducts its main activities) as long as it carries on a business, or part of a business, in the UK.
5. Educate and train your staff. It is crucial to develop an anti bribery-mindset within your business. The most effective way of doing this is through a comprehensive training and implementation plan. Do not look at training as a ‘nice to have’, it raises awareness and is effective in helping employees gain a deep understanding of their responsibilities under a new policy
6. Effective leadership is essential. Board-level executives should also undergo anti-bribery training so that they can lead by example and have knowledge of the Act and its implications. Such leadership sets the tone and helps to implement an anti-bribery culture within your organisation.
7. Bear in mind the adequate procedures defence. A defence may be available if it can be shown that adequate procedures were in place at the time of the alleged bribery offence. The publication of statutory guidance on these so-called procedures is yet to be clarified.
8. Review your existing policies and procedures. Even if you do have existing policies that cover bribery, it is vital that they are reviewed to make sure they comply with the new provisions of the Act.
9. Understand the companies you do business with. This applies not only to the companies you directly do business with, it also includes making sure you have an adequate compliance framework to monitor the activities of third-party agents that you plan to employ.
10. Realise that preventing bribery is everyone’s responsibility. The message that everyone has a responsibility to comply with the Act needs to be embedded within your organisation so that should the worst happen and a bribery allegation is made, you are able to build an adequate procedures defence to show your commitment to preventing bribery.
Rupert Nevin is part of the litigation team at law firm DWF.