UK draft Bribery Bill aims to update rules on corruption

Businesses are being urged to put anti-corruption measures in place in advance of a new law that could make them liable for bribes paid by their employees.

The draft Bribery Bill aims to update the UK rules on corruption, however a cross-party committee set up to examine it has suggested that the measures should be stiffened to make companies shoulder the blame.

According to the Association of Chief Police Officers, the overall annual cost of corruption to the UK economy to be as high as £13.9bn. The World Bank estimates that there are a trillion dollars of bribes paid every year adding 10% to the costs of doing business globally and as much as 25% to the costs of procurement contracts in developing countries.

Joel Heap, a litigation partner with law firm DWF, commented: ‘The proposals by the committee seek to make companies liable if they fail to ensure that adequate anti-bribery procedures are in place. It is important that companies address the issue now and put procedures in place before the bill becomes law.’

DWF recommended board members and senior managers take the following steps:

• ensure someone at board level is responsible for co-ordinating the company anti-bribery and corruption policy

• amend employment terms to include express contractual obligations and penalties in relation to bribery

• put in place a comprehensive policy on gifts and hospitality

• consider what due diligence is carried out on the possible risks of corruption when doing business with another company

• ensure any policies and procedures are embedded into the company culture by means of comprehensive internal training

• consider whether there are sufficient financial and commercial controls to minimise the risks.

Heap added: ‘The risk of corruption is very real, particularly for companies operating in a global environment. Once the new law has been introduced, efforts will be focused on enforcement and companies which do not have proper policies in place may find themselves facing prosecution as a result of the unofficial actions of an employee. Therefore it is advisable that companies prepare now to protect against the risk.’