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Report on awareness and impact of the UK Bribery Act 2010 among small and medium sized enterprises published

25 September 2015

The UK Bribery Act 2010 came into force on 1 July 2011. The Act contains four broad offences:

  • offering, promising or giving a bribe;
  • requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting a bribe;
  • bribery of foreign public officials; and
  • failure of commercial organisations to prevent bribery.

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:

  • Two thirds (66%) of the SMEs surveyed had either heard of the Bribery Act 2010 or were aware of its corporate liability for failure to prevent bribery. Awareness was greater among SMEs exporting to regions that are less developed, including the Middle East, Asia, Africa and South and Central America (68%) compared to those companies only exporting to developed regions including Europe, North America and Australia (56%).
  • Around eight in ten SMEs (81%) that had heard of the Bribery Act were also aware that the Act has extra-territorial reach (i.e. it encompasses bribery offences committed overseas)

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%).