Are you complacent about Bribery Act compliance?

Are you complacent about Bribery Act compliance?


Author: Ron Reid

What exactly is causing UK businesses to be complacent about compliance with Bribery Act legislation?

A survey by the Ernst and Young Investigations and Dispute Services Team reveals that almost three quarters of middle managers are not even aware of the existence of the Bribery Act legislation.

Worse still, it appears fewer than 15% of middle managers have received any information or instruction concerning the application of the legislation to their business.

Taken together with a survey last year by the same organisation that found that one in seven employees in the UK were willing to pay cash to acquire business, is this complacency being driven by the fact that there is yet to be a corporate prosecution under the new legislation?

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) recently published the results of a review into anti-bribery and corruption systems and controls in investment banks.

They visited 15 firms, including eight major global investment banks and a number of smaller operations, finding that nearly half had not conducted an adequate risk assessment, with only two having carried out specific internal audits to ensure compliance.

In common with many organisations outside that sector, they also found there were significant issues in those firms' dealings with third parties used to win or retain business.

It would seem that the significant penalties, imposed by the FSA, on Willis (£6.89m), Aon (£5.25m) and others, has not had the desired affect.

It is possible that the practice of settling breaches of the Bribery Act by self-reporting and negotiating with the Serious Fraud Office - leading to the civil recovery orders which are less transparent than criminal prosecutions - may have encouraged organisations to feel that the risks of enforcement action are low?

In the current climate, commercial organisations would be ill advised to delay ensuring that they have clear anti-bribery policies in place, and that they have developed robust compliance procedures which have been well communicated to their staff.

There are numerous examples of organisations rewriting and reviewing policies in the light of the Act but many fail when challenged to show that these policies are well understood by those they employ and those who win or retain business on their behalf.

Failure to take on board these recent findings could prove very expensive. There is simply no room for complacency.