The Bribery Act of 2010 lays out many anti-bribery policies and penalties for committing such a crime. After coming into force in June 2011, it made bribery and corruption, in general, a criminal offence, often with severe civil penalties for organisations who are found guilty.
Bribing is a widespread problem not only in the UK but across the globe, and Transparency International statistics reveal that 53.4% of people in their survey believed that in the past three years corruption had increased either a little or significantly. Further, in the UK in 2010, around one in four people paid a bribe when they interacted with one of nine types of institutions. In the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), more than two-thirds of the world’s states ranked below 50 out of 100 despite the UK’s ranking of 80.
The Offences Covered in the Act
The Bribery Act 2010 law is extensive and covers three basic offences: bribing another person, attempting to bribe a public foreign public official, and the failure of organisations to effectively prevent misconduct through a lack of clear policies. Other offences included under the main categories include receiving bribes and bribing through purchasing unnecessarily expensive hospitality.
Attempting to bribe another individual is covered by the Act under section one, and it describes two cases. The first being that a person gives an incentive to influence and promote improper conduct by another individual receiving it, which is understood as the classic bribing offence. The second case occurs when a person “knows or believes that the acceptance of an advantage offered… constitutes the improper performance of a relevant function”. The law defines ‘improper performance’ as any act that violates “expectation that a person will act in good faith, impartially, or in accordance with a position of trust”. The act also penalises all those who receive bribes directly or indirectly.
The next offence involves attempting to “pay-off” a foreign public official usually with the effect of speeding up business negotiations or gaining an unfair business advantage by swaying the official’s behaviour. A foreign public official is anyone that holds an elected or appointed public office be it of political, judicial or administrative nature outside of UK territory.
The failure of commercial organisations to properly implement an anti-bribery policy, amounting in failure to prevent misconduct, is the last of the offences defined in the Act. Organisations may be liable if a bribe takes place and they fail to give sufficient evidence that there were effective company policies in place. Since the law covers organisations that have some parts of their operations in the UK, were formed in the UK or are UK-registered, businesses may need to provide proof of these things to ensure transparency and avoid penalties.
Advice to Organisations in the Act
The Act covers what it calls the Six Principles, or six provisions that organisations must be aware of and implement if they are to successfully avoid accusations of misconduct. These six are:
- Proportionate procedures
- Top-level commitment
- Risk assessment
- Due diligence
- Monitoring and review
Therefore, organisations must implement effective procedures in a top-down approach that are proportionate to the problem at hand. Risk-assessments can be carried out and are helpful in determining the nature and severity of the problem, to construct effective policies. Actions from the top can “foster a culture of integrity” which helps in setting standards for everyone.
Organisations have a duty to train and educate employees about the causes, risks and consequences for themselves and the business of wrongdoing. They can do so via online training courses, seminars or workshops.
Businesses must also ensure that their standards are being accepted in the company, and so the monitoring process is vitally important. Mechanisms can be put in place to monitor the legitimacy of transactions and see if the policies are accepted by employees by carrying out surveys.
If organisations are found guilty of bribery, they could face unlimited fines and/or imprisonment of certain employees.