How to Address Bribery & Corruption Risks in Your Business
The Bribery Act 2010 came into effect in July 2011 in the United Kingdom. Bribery has always been illegal in corporate legislation, but the Bribery Act brought in new standards of practice, new penalties and gave the enforcement authorities additional powers.
But bribery is more than a regulatory or compliance issue. For many international businesses that operate in emerging markets, it’s an ongoing battle for legitimacy and a public relations risk.
A bribe is defined as “the act of giving someone a financial or another advantage to encourage that person to perform their functions or activities improperly or to reward that person for having
already done so.”
The Ministry of Justice explains in their own quick-start guide that “this could cover seeking to influence a decision-maker by giving some kind of extra benefit to that decision-maker rather than by what can legitimately be offered as part of a tender process.”
It’s easy to see from the broadness of this definition that bribery is an easy practice to fall into, particularly in economies that don’t score highly in the Corruption Perception Index compiled by Transparency International. This index ranks countries from least to most corrupt using a combination of factor, anecdotal and crowd-sourced information, such as through public and business surveys.
In countries at the bottom end of the scale, such as Nigeria and Iraq, the practice of bribery can be so endemic and integrated into public services that a large corporation will find it difficult to operate without paying bribes that could land them in hot water domestically.
How do companies address bribery risks?
Walking the tightrope between respecting anti-bribery legislation, and abiding by local cultural norms in order to be able to carry out business activities is an extremely difficult one. It’s no surprise that companies turn to legal experts such as Withers Worldwide to receive localised guidance and support to help them comply and thrive in emerging markets.
Bribery cases are rare, and therefore it’s helpful to draw upon the expertise of those with practical experience in advising and handling bribery litigation when designing your plans.
A distinct bribery policy
A core pillar in a companies reaction to the Bribery Act should have been to create a policy on bribery for your company.
This should be distinct from, and not overlap with your anti-money laundering policy if you have one. While both are white-collar crimes, the objective of each is distinct and therefore it’s easier to demonstrate how your business is fighting bribery risks if you use dedicated communications and policies to your employees.
Any communications with your employees should not treat bribery like a simple compliance box that needs to be ticked.
In the same way that some companies are really committed to keeping their employees safe through a very clear health & safety culture, bribery must be tackled with regular employee communications and active training where it poses a real risk to your business.
Tiered-levels of employee engagement
Not all of your employees will be placed into a position where they may be asked to accept a bribe, or may feel pressured to offer one. That’s why you should use your resources efficiently.
Consider mandating a recorded webinar for all employees, so that they are aware of the differences between right and wrong on the issue, and are fully aware of the penalties and legal consequences if they make the wrong decision.
Then, for employees with much higher risk, consider live-training where employees are invited to discuss the grey areas and bring any personal concerns they may have to the table. The last thing you would want is for an employee to feel that the company policy gives a clear cut answer but the ‘reality on the ground’ is that they must breach this policy. A zero-tolerance policy won’t be effective if employees feel that they have implicit permission from their line management to breach it.
Open-forums in live training sessions provide the opportunity for facilitators to reconcile the requirements to the day-to-day challenges experienced by the workforce.