Last month, four men were convicted for their involvement in making or receiving payments in connection with a contract on the Thameslink project. The contractor itself was also convicted and fined £25000, presumably for failing to prevent bribery which is an offence.
This proved to be a pretty clear case, and both those that made payments and those who received them are enjoying a spell at her majesty’s pleasure.
In this instance, fraud officers were able to identify payments, gifts and other favours but it’s not always this cut and dried. When is it bribery or corruption? and when is it perfectly fine to offer a gift or hospitality? Fortunately, there are clear guidelines and our brand new eLearning course Anti-Bribery Training uses real-life scenarios to help clear these muddy waters.
More details of this story can be found here.
What is Bribery?
When someone bribes someone else they offer them a reward to purposely do something incorrectly – to ignore proper procedure. This is known as improper performance and it’s breaking the trust of the organisation they work for. The word 'purposely’ is important. It’s NOT bribery if there’s no intention for anyone to do anything improperly. It’s important to know that it’s a bribe the moment a reward is offered or promised, even if it’s not accepted or actually given. The reward could be money or any other type of reward.
In some countries, bribes are normal, but if you are a UK company, you’ll be breaking the law if you give or accept a bribe.
Bribes, Gifts & Hospitality
If gifts or hospitality are reasonable and proportionate and done for the right reasons they’re not considered to be bribery. Many organisations have a Gifts and Hospitality Policy which sets out the rules. Sometimes, a limit may be set on the cost of a gift or hospitality. If you receive a gift, there should be no obligation or expectation to do anything, and the person giving it should not be expecting to receive anything. The value of the gift should be ‘reasonable’ and the gift should be ‘appropriate’. A regular (frequently received) gift may be cause for concern!
What are the consequences for bribery?
People can receive up to 10 years in prison and an unlimited fine. Companies can also face unlimited fines. However, sometimes if organisations have tried their best to prevent bribery and have strong systems in place to discourage the behaviour then they may not be liable.