22 July 2010 | Lindsay Clark
The UK government has put back the introduction of the Bribery Act, provoking protest from a lobby group.
The law, which is set to make it easier for senior managers and companies to be prosecuted if their employees accept bribes, was due to be introduced in October this year, after receiving royal assent in April. The Ministry of Justice announced this week that the Act would now be introduced in April next year, following a short consultation and “awareness raising events” from September.
Chandrashekhar Krishnan, executive director of lobby group Transparency International UK said: “While guidance will be helpful for companies by clarifying some grey areas, it is extremely disappointing that the government has chosen to delay implementation of the Bribery Act.
"There is absolutely no reason that effective guidance could not have been published in time for the Act to commence in 2010. The danger is that under the guise of consultation attempts may be made by those who want to pursue 'business as usual' to water down the Bribery Act.”
“The jury is now out on (the government’s) commitment to fighting corruption,” he said.
Transparency International UK has now published its own guidance on the Bribery Act which it said would allow companies to get a “head start” in tightening up their anti-corruption procedures. The guidance was created with the help of FTI Consulting, business advisory firm, and Halcrow, the international infrastructure consultancy.
A Department of Justice statement said: “The Act will ensure the UK is at the forefront of the battle against bribery and pave the way for fairer practice by encouraging businesses to adopt anti-bribery safeguards.”
The Act is set to:
Introduce a corporate offence of failure to prevent bribery by persons working on behalf of a business. A business can avoid conviction if it can show that it has adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery.
Make it a criminal offence to give, promise or offer a bribe and to request, agree to receive or accept a bribe either at home or abroad. The measures cover bribery of a foreign public official.
Increase the maximum penalty for bribery from seven to 10 years’ imprisonment, with an unlimited fine.