On July 1st, the Bribery Act came into force. Do you know what this means for you and your company? If not, you need to get familiar with it, because the penalties for non-compliance can be crippling fines and even imprisonment if the offence is serious enough.
Policies and Procedures
If you are a small business with employees, you need an anti-bribery policy and procedures in place for the prevention of anything that could be construed as bribery. Your staff should be briefed and warned that offences will not be tolerated. You need to keep records of any occurrences or potential risks.
Having a written log is your proof that you are taking the bribery laws seriously and trying to comply with the Act. Another good idea is to hold training sessions, and have a training manual and materials that can be available for inspection.
Put incident reports and reviews of your anti-bribery policies and procedures on the agendas of board or senior management meetings, so that discussions can be minuted. These minutes will be further proof of your commitment to the new legislation.
Failing to Prevent an Offence
One of the offences listed is the failure of a commercial organisation to prevent bribery. So even if you are personally innocent, as a business owner you are deemed responsible if a member of your staff offers or accepts a bribe in exchange for a favour of some kind related to the business.
You could appoint a member of staff to take on a policing role and to assess the risks of bribery in your sector and the markets in which you operate. Particular care is needed when new external relationships are set up, as you can be implicated by association with any wrong-doing. Make sure all your joint venture partners, associates, agents and representatives are squeaky clean to avoid prosecution by default.
Entertaining Customers and Targets
Corporate entertainment must be appropriate, and this is a grey area where you must make your own decisions about what can be included. While all this is much more likely to affect larger businesses, you could be at risk even as a sole trader, if you invite potential clients to over-extravagant events or meals in the hope of doing business with them. It will only take one complaint to be followed up by the authorities, to put both your reputation and finances in jeopardy.
The implications of the new Bribery Act are far reaching. All entrepreneurs need to understand them and take appropriate compliance action.