The end of bribery by UK firms?

Companies can no longer keep their head in the sand - the Act is in place.Finally the Bribery Act 2010 has been implemented!  But what does this mean?  Will this have an effect on the lives of those in poor communities worldwide?

Last week I was speaking with colleagues working on anti-corruption in Morocco and Kenya.  One of the things mentioned was that their countries were concerned about the impact of the UK Bribery Act – that their Government was thinking about how to ‘clean up’ corruption in order that UK firms don’t avoid operating there.  They fear a lack of UK investment.  This discussion really excited me – it is easy to sit here in London and think about the theory of the Act, but now it is a reality – and the Act is starting to have an effect.

That said it is really important that there is a strong implementation of the Act otherwise this effect will not last.  If cases are not prosecuted and firms get away with bribery then the Act’s impact will be lessened.  The Ministry of Justice’s guidance is unhelpful in clarifying the scope of the Act and needs to be interpreted broadly so that all companies listed on UK stock exchanges and foreign companies that operate subsidiaries in the UK are included.  Companies should be liable for bribes paid by their subsidiaries and joint ventures – otherwise with some clever dealings, firms could potentially avoid prosecution.

This can’t be allowed to happen.  The Government must ensure enforcement of the Act.  Bribery harms UK economic interests and negatively impacts communities worldwide.  The UK has an obligation to ensure that companies based here do not contribute to corruption in foreign countries though bribery. 

This means the Act must work as a deterrent; cases must be brought before the courts and the penalties strong.  The UK Government must commit adequate resources to ensure that bribery cases are investigated and prosecuted. 

Companies can no longer keep their head in the sand – the Act is in place.  They have a responsibility and should operate good practice by putting strong procedures in place to prevent bribery. 

Bribery is not a victimless crime and the UK government must implement robust enforcement of the Act to ensure the protection of those who need it most.

An end to bribery by UK firms?  I think not.  But let’s hope this is a major step forward in deterring it.


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