Corruption affects all countries, rich and poor. It causes instability, inequality, and poverty, eroding national wealth. But you can reduce the risk for your company.
Despite the UK Bribery Act, one of the toughest anti-bribery laws globally, coming into force in 2011, bribery remains a significant risk for organisations.
Almost a quarter of businesses have experienced bribery and corruption in the three years to 2018, according to PwC's Global Economic Crime Survey.
1. Update anti-bribery & anti-corruption policies
Most UK businesses have adopted anti-bribery policies - but it’s how they are implemented that will make a difference.
Make sure staff understand your company's rules and expectations around bribery and corruption. They need to know what is and isn't acceptable concerning gifts, hospitality, donations, sponsorship and political donations. You need to provide regular bribery training to maintain awareness.
Alongside training, establish processes that help them remember the dos and don’ts, such as checklists and travel guidelines.
Staff need to understand that any gift or hospitality they receive must have a legitimate business purpose, be proportionate, and be declared in the company’s Gift and Hospitality Register. Be sure to clearly outline what is meant by ‘legitimate’ and ‘proportionate’ - don’t leave it open to interpretation.
2. Get the tone from the top right
Staff awareness of anti-bribery policies is only half the story. Creating an anti-bribery culture needs a clear and consistent set of messages coming from the top.
Everyone from the board of directors, the business owner and the compliance function need to make it clear that they won't tolerate bribery and corruption and that anyone found guilty will face the highest sanctions.
However, the most vital thing is for people at the top to be seen to practice what they preach and believe in the importance of anti-bribery policies. Otherwise, staff won’t buy into the culture, and any dialogue around anti-bribery training won’t be taken seriously.
3. Embed ABAC principles in corporate culture
Refer to Anti-Bribery and Corruption (ABAC) in company handbooks, reports, and training. Set ground rules upfront by including ABAC clauses in all supplier contracts, along with appropriate termination clauses for suspected breaches.
Finally, communicate to staff how important they are in preventing bribery and empower them to play a role in maintaining compliance - for example, by outlining whistleblowing procedures and red flags to look out for.
4. Ensure gifts & hospitality meet key criteria:
Any gift or hospitality a person gives or receives must:
- Have a legitimate business purpose (there's a legitimate business purpose)
- Be proportionate (i.e. reasonable and not unduly lavish)
- Be transparent (declared in the company's Gift and Hospitality Register)
5. Conduct due diligence on all third parties
Anti-bribery laws also apply to all your third parties, i.e. any agents, intermediaries, consultants and associates, and anyone else representing you or acting on your company’s behalf. You are responsible under the law for thoroughly checking and verifying these parties.
This means implementing adequate systems and controls to ensure third parties are whom they claim to be, have the appropriate credentials and are approved at the senior management level.
6. Watch out for red flags
Non-compliance can manifest itself in both unintentional or deliberate acts. Of course, deliberate non-compliance is more alarming. But it can be easier to spot - as long as you’re watching.
Red flags for deliberate non-compliance include:
- Performing no service other than 'facilitating'
- Abnormally high fees or commission
- An insistence on urgency or confidentiality
- Having no track record
- An insistence on meeting without company representatives being present
- Requesting advance or cash payments
- Requesting payment via third parties
- Operating in a country or territory with perceived high corruption
An individual’s job can also heighten the risk of non-compliance. For example, those operating in a country or territory with perceived high corruption are likely to present more of a threat - whether or not the intent is there.
Identifying unintentional non-compliance is more difficult. But the good news is that preventing it is within your control. Training staff to make them aware of their responsibilities, the company’s expectations and the consequences of giving or receiving bribes is key.
7. Extra precautions with foreign public officials
When dealing with foreign public officials, make it clear that employees must not offer cash or anything of value to a foreign public official or anyone closely related to them, including charities or voluntary organisations run by their spouses.
8. Avoid facilitation payments
Don't make facilitation payments to speed up the performance of a function by a government official unless you are physically threatened.
9. Report concerns immediately
If staff have witnessed or suspect bribery, they need to know how and to whom to report it. They should be able to speak to their manager or report it via your company's established whistleblowing channels.
It should also be made clear to employees that it's not their job to investigate their concerns. They should leave the investigation to the appropriate channels instead.
Bribery is a very significant problem that can result in huge fines for companies and individuals and even imprisonment. Don't let this be a reality for your business.
10. Make training meaningful
Bribery prevention policies and procedures need to be embedded and understood by everyone in the organisation. This is where a good quality anti-bribery training programme is critical. Training needs to not only help people understand what is and isn’t acceptable - it must embed the appropriate behaviours.
With this in mind, it’s important that training is first personalised to your company. This means creating bespoke training content that uses your company name, policy names, terminology your company uses and so on.
But most importantly, it’s crucial to remember that your staff don’t need to know the intricate details of the Bribery Act, clauses and all. Instead, they need to understand the human impact of bribery and their specific responsibilities to help prevent bribery in everyday situations they may come across. This gives training real meaning, and staff will be much more likely to remember their duties and act in the right way.
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