25 September 2015
The UK Bribery Act 2010 came into force on 1 July 2011. The Act contains four broad offences:
The failure of commercial organisations to prevent bribery applies to UK incorporated commercial organisations, wherever they carry on business. Such organisations can be held criminally liable for offences committed by persons associated with them in order to obtain or retain business or an advantage in the conduct of business, unless the organisation can show that it has adequate bribery prevention procedures in place.
The provision has very wide extra-territorial reach so that companies can be prosecuted for failing to prevent bribery offences committed anywhere in the world. As such, it is of potential significance to some Irish businesses.
The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) and Ministry of Justice (MOJ) in the UK recently carried out a review of awareness and impact of the UK Bribery Act 2010 among small and medium sized enterprises. According to the BIS report, awareness of the Bribery Act was as follows:
Of all SMEs that were aware of the Bribery Act, almost three quarters (72%) perceived that their company had sufficient knowledge and understanding to be able to implement adequate anti-bribery procedures. This perceived knowledge and understanding was greatest among those SMEs that were aware of corporate liability for failure to prevent bribery (79%) compared to those that had only heard of the Act itself (45%).
Of SMEs that had some bribery prevention procedures in place, almost all (94%) said that they had financial and commercial controls such as bookkeeping, auditing and approval of expenditure. Only slightly fewer had a top level commitment that the company does not win business through bribery (88%), and discipline processes and sanctions for breaches of the organisation’s anti-bribery rules (74%).