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Legal Updates

The Bribery Act: Three Years On

03 December 2014 #Public Sector

The Bribery Act 2010 (the Act) came into force on 1 July 2011 amid much fanfare.  The question has arisen on a number of occasions since then whether or not the various offences within the Act are being enforced.  The matter was addressed in November of this year, in a speech by Stuart Alford QC, the Joint Head of Fraud at the SFO.  Mr Alford noted that the offences under the Act are taken seriously and referred to prosecution currently ongoing in  Southwark Crown Court, with charges under the Act included as part of a much larger fraud prosecution. Mr Alford also noted that it can take some time for offences under the Act (which only came in three years ago) to firstly be uncovered and secondly to find their way through the legal system.  He therefore reiterated the SFO’s commitment to enforcing the Act. 

It is, therefore, important that all organisations regularly review their procedures to ensure compliance with the Act for two reasons,

  • to ensure that employees are fully aware of the organisation’s position on the offences under the Act, and that bribery is in all circumstances prohibited, and
  • to protect the organisation from the corporate offence under the Act (the main defence to which is that the organisation has adequate procedures in place to discourage or prevent bribery).  

In addition, organisations which regularly contract with government or quasi government bodies, including local authorities and other public authorities, have seen increasing prominence for questions on the Act in pre-qualification questionnaires, and invariably anti-bribery clauses within the awarded contract.  With the advent of the new Public Contracts Regulations (which are scheduled for some time next year) and the aim being to reduce the length of the pre-qualification questionnaire, it is likely that in many cases the question on the Act will be a Pass/Fail question as to whether or not an organisation has a policy and complies with the Act.  Failure to say yes to that question may well result in the organisation in question being excluded from taking any further part in the procurement process.   

The need therefore to review your compliance with the Act on a regular basis is twofold, and a keen eye should be kept on ensuring that your organisation not only has a policy, but that your staff are aware of and trained on it, and that it is regularly monitored.

This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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