Bribery, corruption and the free lunch

By | 10th February 2011

It is nigh on impossible to open a serious newspaper or magazine these days without finding an article on the Bribery Act 2010 which was supposed to come into force in April 2011, after publication of the guidance promised by the Government. I recall that such guidance was to be published three months before the legislation comes into force and now we learn that it will not see the light of day any time soon and it will  be much later in the year before the Act  takes effect, if ever.

There has been so much commentary on the Act and its likely effects that I hesitate even to mention it. Many organisations, and not surprisingly a number of law firms, have posted articles and commentaries on the internet.  These firms include Allen & Overy, Freshfields and Norton Rose and you can access their views by clicking the appropriate link above.

Getting on for 10 years ago I recall attending seminars and even giving talks to clients on the predecessor of the Bribery Act, then know as the Corruption Bill so I struggle to understand what the fuss is about. Of course, a new regime will cause initial problems (although I hope the guidance will effectively result in some of the more lurid claims about the deleterious effects of the Act being laid to rest) but the US has had the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for the last 30 odd years and US businesses do not appear to have suffered unduly, despite certain well publicised cases such as the Siemens case where many millions were ultimately paid in fines.

I have assumed (perhaps rashly) that when I take a client out for a drink or a modest meal I am not going to fall foul of the Act and that it is for businesses to have in place proper control mechanisms to ensure that their staff do not overscratch the backs of those with whom they would like to do business. Doubtless, if I am wrong, I will be corrected!  But I must confess that I am more likely to read pieces with attention grabbing headlines such as “Hopes of alien life recede” and “Two Eds better than one?” than yet another treatise on the Bribery Act. Enuff said, Ed!

Where I am much more exercised is in the total lack of reaction to the forthcoming national census where I understand that seriously intrusive and unnecessary questions are to be asked of each of us on pain of fines and imprisonment if we fail to answer. Where is the Information Commissioner in all this? We are for ever being lectured about the twin vices of failing to comply with the Data Protection Act and the wrongful dissemination of personal data and now we are all going to be forced to answer questions about who stays in our house and whether we are in civil partnerships! They might as well include a question asking me to divulge if I am aware of anyone scratching my back.

I am discombobulated by it all! Perhaps the solution is for me to go back to the day job and get stuck in to that huge quantity of data awaiting processing and analysis and to promoting Millnet’s new Smart Insourcing team (which has doubled in size since the start if the year) and leave others to worry about the Bribery Act.

And, when I can get round to it, I just might scratch my own back.