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The two main aspects of the Act that affect businesses are the commercial aspects of (a) bribing foreign public officials and (b) the failure of commercial organisations to prevent bribery. The offence can be committed by companies and partnerships as well as sole traders and also committed if a person associated with the business bribes another person. In addition, the offences can be committed outside the UK. An associated person is someone who performs services for and on behalf of the business. This includes employees but also other people working for them.
There is however a defence for some offences, if the company can prove it had adequate procedures in place designed to prevent bribery from being committed. It is therefore very important to put in place proper procedures as soon as possible and to make sure they are followed. The onus of proof will be on a company to show that they had adequate procedures in place.
If found guilty, the penalties under the Bribery Act can include up to 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine for commercial organisations.

What can you do?

You need to take action and put in place procedures and policies, bearing in mind that any measures should be proportionate to the size and complexity of the organisation (so the larger the organisation the more detailed the procedures need to be). Actions to take include:
1.    Prepare a memorandum note or report to the Management team summarising  the changes to UK Law as contained in the Act.
2.    Appoint a senior member of staff to oversee procedures so that the ethos of the Act is built into the daily culture and processes of the organisation and that due diligence is always maintained for existing and future contracts/associations.
3.    Consider updating existing literature to outline the organisation’s zero tolerance commitment to bribery.
4.    Ensure existing contracts and future contractors or suppliers are aware of your policies and that they adopt a similar culture.
5.    Consider a risk assessment of how your business operates from grass roots level through to the top. Consider what associations the organisation has and what these associations do.
6.    Train members of staff and also associations that may be linked to your business.
The above is by no means a definitive list and it remains to be seen exactly how the Act will operate once it comes into force on 1st July 2011. Some commentators suggest the government will make examples of offenders to deter those who do not take the new rules seriously in respect of their commercial activities.

Specialist advice

If you would like specialist legal advice on how the Bribery Act could affect your business and employees, and on how to implement measures that provide protection, please contact David Heys on 0116 212 1000.