Over the past few months we have blogged extensively about the introduction of the UK Bribery Act. Finally, today, after months of delays, “reviews” and much debate about guidance notes, the act has come into force.
As we’ve seen corruption and poor governance cause and exacerbate extreme poverty and can cost lives. The act will make it not only illegal to offer or accept bribes but also, critically, to fail to prevent bribery.
Where prosecuted, companies will have to prove that they have adequate measures in place to prevent to stop bribes, whether they were aware of it taking place or not. These include providing anti-bribery training to staff, carrying out risk assessments for the markets being operated in, or carrying out due diligence on the people being dealt with.
A major bone of contention around the act has been it's effect on corporate hospitality - will we see an end to the corporate hospitality tents at wimbledon? The guidance notes state:
'Very generally, [bribery] is defined as giving someone a financial or other advantage to encourage that person to perform their functions or activities improperly or to reward that person for having already done so.'
Further to this it has been stated we will see a common sense approach applied, so that reasonable and proportionate hospitality will not been seen as a bribe. You can see Ken Clarke, the UK Secretary of State for Justice and government appointed Anti Corruption Champion, discussing this in this BBC news report. So perhaps we shall have to continue looking on enviously at the champagne and strawberries in those tents, but can be assured that once hospitality passes beyond the normal realms it will become a crime and be punishable by unlimited fines and imprisonment.
Whilst we do see this as a victory and a major step forward in the movement towards justice for all, it is important to remember that the implementation of the Bribery Act is not the be all and end all of this movement. Corruption is not just about bribes, we need to see effective action across the range of issues. Amongst them, we need to see the introduction of regulations requiring transparency in extractive industries and foreign aid, we need to tackle the illicit and harmful financial flows out of developing countries.
When he was appointed as Anti-Corruption Champion over a year ago, Ken Clarke promised to develop and implement a joined up strategy, but we have yet to see anything come out of his department besides todays implementation of the Bribery Act months after it was due to come into force.
There is an amazing opportunity here for the UK to take the lead in tackling corruption, and so that is why we are calling on Ken Clarke to live up to his tite as “Champion” and develop and publish his strategy.
Add you name to the call by signing our petition on the right.