I know that you are all struggling hard to contain your excitement, but it’s now only two days until the Bribery Act (2010) takes full effect. Savvy companies – and those, like BAe who have already had their fingers burned – have been spending the past few months getting their compliance procedures in line. Draconian though the new law may be, it does offer companies the reassurance of an “adequate procedures” defence if they have established proper systems to prevent their employees and agents from paying bribes to corrupt individuals. If you’re still wondering what to do about the new legislation, this is where I can help, of course, though that isn’t the true raison d’etre for this post.
Comment and speculation about the Act has mainly revolved around the steps that Commercial Businesses should be taking to protect themselves but it applies to all organisations, whether they be Companies, Voluntary Organisations, Quangos (if there are any left!) or Government Bodies. Many Departments of State are responsible for significant expenditure overseas, often in areas of the World that don’t score well on the Transparency International Global Perceptions Index. One wonders how confident such departments would be, if they were challenged about their “Adequate Procedures”, and to what extent responding to the Bribery Act is a significant item on their to-do lists?
My suspicion is that any such question would be met with comments like “We don’t need to take any measures – we just don’t have these kinds of problem”, because there is a general feeling that Britain is not a corrupt nation and our institutions are fundamentally honest. In comparison to a lot of countries that’s true, of course: I don’t recall ever having to bribe British Gas to get my supply connected, or having to pay a percentage of a PAYE refund to a tax official to get my money back. However, one only has to think about some of our wonderful, incorruptible MPs (Jonathan Aitken, anyone?) or steadfast, honest Local Government officials like T Dan Smith, to realise that our Public Institutions should be as alert as anyone else to the implications of the new law.
But I bet they won’t be…….