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Warning to firms over new bribery legislation

Businesses must prepare themselves for the introduction of updated bribery legislation, according to anti-bribery expert Allen Keele.

Mr Keele, who is set to lead an anti-bribery and corruption training seminar in August, said that businesses may be unaware that the new legislation extends beyond the public sector.

“In my experience so far, there seems to be a lack of awareness across the board in the private sector,” he said. “They think a code of ethics is a fraud policy, but it’s not. A fraud policy has a lot more than that.”

The new legislation, which comes into effect on September 1, updates several offences including offering or receiving bribes, bribery of foreign public officials and of failure to prevent a bribe being paid on an organisation’s behalf.

Based on the UK’s Bribery Act 2010, the legislation replaces previous offences related to bribery and corruption while imposing a duty on public officials to report an offer of a bribe or any circumstances relating to collusion in the awarding of contracts.

However, the new legislation also includes a new offence intended to punish commercial organisations that fail to prevent bribery on their behalf.

According to a guidance document released by Government, the legislation also includes a defence for such organisations if they are able to demonstrate they have adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery.

The document states: “The question of adequacy of bribery prevention procedures will depend, in the final analysis, on the facts of each case, including matters such as the level of control over the activities of the associated person and the degree of risk that requires mitigation.”

Mr Keele said that there seemed to be a lack of awareness about the impact of the legislation, noting that fraud officers in the UK have put together a “trophy case” online of successful prosecutions since their legislation came into effect.

“A lot of businesses are not aware, and many of those that are aware are those companies which have been fined or were associated with companies that were,” he said. “It shows me that multiple companies were not aware or not taking it that seriously, but it’s a very serious thing, not just for fines, but for reputation.

“There are always going to be examples of people doing things they shouldn’t do.”

He said that many businesses had found themselves in a bad position due to their belief that they have adequate anti-corruption measures in place when they did not.

“What we have found is we have got organisations that think they have it all in hand,” he said. “They have a code of ethics, but where are the policies to address and identify fraud risk? If you don’t have these things, your claims to be really against bribery and fraud are really very thin.”

In addition to preventing fines, Mr Keele said that adopting strong anti-bribery and corruption policies can help a company — or a country — by making it a safer investment.

“I really wish companies would do it because it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “I hope they would do it for the right reasons, but there are a lot of operations that are looking at this as a differentiating factor. Their investors don’t have to worry about being caught up in some fraud claim, that the organisation is being properly managed and is not dealing with corruption problems.”

The Certified ISO 37001 Anti-Bribery and Corruption Manager five-day training and certification seminar is scheduled to take place at the Fairmont Southampton from August 21 to August 25.

For registration details, contact gabriela.yanez@certifiedinfosec.com.