By Thomas Fox
The U.K. Ministry of Justice has released its “Consultation on guidance about commercial organisations preventing bribery (section 9 of the Bribery Act 2010).” As required by the Act, it provides guidance to “support businesses in determining the sorts of bribery prevention measures they can put in place.”
Businesses covered by the Bribery Act can be convicted of a criminal offense if they fail to prevent bribery on their behalf. However, the Act provides that if the organization can show that it has adequate bribery prevention procedures in place, such “adequate procedures” are a defense to a prosecution.
The Consultation lists “Six Principles for Bribery Prevention.” The Ministry of Justice believes the principles are good international practices for such adequate procedures and will assist businesses in determining what bribery prevention procedures they can put in place.
The Six Principles for Bribery Prevention are:
1. Risk Assessment – this is about knowing and keeping up to date with the bribery risks you face in your sector and market.
2. Top level commitment – this concerns establishing a culture across the organization in which bribery is unacceptable. If your business is small or medium sized this may not require much sophistication but the theme is making the message clear, unambiguous and regularly made to all staff and business partners.
3. Due diligence – this is about knowing who you do business with; knowing why, when and to whom you are releasing funds and seeking reciprocal anti-bribery agreements; and being in a position to feel confident that business relationships are transparent and ethical.
4. Clear, Practical and Accessible Policies and Procedures – this concerns applying them to everyone you employ and business partners under your effective control and covering all relevant risks such as political and charitable contributions, gifts and hospitality, promotional expenses, and responding to demands for facilitation demands or when an allegation of bribery comes to light.
5. Effective implementation – this is about going beyond “paper compliance” to embedding anti-bribery in your organization’s internal controls, recruitment and remuneration policies, operations, communications and training on practical business issues.
6. Monitoring and review – this relates to auditing and financial controls that are sensitive to bribery and are transparent, considering how regularly you need to review your policies and procedures, and whether external verification would help.
The Consultation invites interested parties to comment on these Principles. The comment period will last eight weeks. The Consultation is a very useful tool for any company wanting to measure its current compliance and ethics program.
While this Consultation (available for download here) only deals with the U.K. Bribery Act’s requirements, it could also be a valuable tool for companies subject to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to measure their FCPA compliance policy as well.