24 April 2008
A fifth of buyers claim a supplier has offered them a "sweetener" to secure business.
According to the latest SM poll of 100 buyers, 20 per cent have been offered an inducement. But purchasers remain divided over what actually constitutes a bribe.
Some respondents said they had accepted invitations to hospitality events from vendors, but didn't consider them as bribes.
Others took a stronger line. Duncan Stirling, business services manager at IT firm Steria Services, said: "A bribe is something for personal or professional gain, either as an individual or as a business. It can mean a direct cash incentive or something that is offered to gain further business outside of a fair market engagement."
Many buyers adopted a similar stance and refused any offers from a supplier.
"The difference between being offered cash and a gift is a thin line. That is why I always adopt a zero-tolerance approach and accept nothing," explained William Fyfe, procurement manager for the National Trust for Scotland.
But Tony Morris, principal business consultant at financial services company CODA, said he didn't think hospitality, such as lunch, represented bribery.
James Jaggard, purchasing consultant, agreed: "I personally have been offered and accepted many corporate-sponsored sporting events, stationery and, in some cases at Christmas, the odd bottle. All of which have been within the acceptable levels of company policy and always with the knowledge of my line manager."
Buyers agreed gifts of substantial value or cash incentives were unacceptable. Some of the gifts respondents had been offered included iPods, televisions and even cars, all of which were rejected or in some cases auctioned for charity.
One purchaser said he rejected tickets for the Beijing Olympics because he felt it would affect his future decisions about the supplier. He explained: "It might cross my mind that if I do not give that company sufficient business in the future, they may not invite me to the next major sports event."
An SM poll last year found half of buyers did not believe fraud was a growing issue. But Peter Easterby, lead buyer at Honeywell Consumer Products Group, thought instances of bribery were increasing.
He said globalisation has played a part: "For some, the risk of bribery comeback is less than the implications of not getting the contract."