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December 2011 | Paul Snell
Buyers have been warned to make sure
policies around accepting gifts or hospitality this Christmas are enforced
because suppliers could be tempted to offer generous presents to hold on to
If organisations fail to take adequate
measures to prevent any potential bribery they could be at risk of prosecution,
following the introduction of the
Bribery Act in the UK this summer.
“Christmas is the peak season for client
and customer entertaining and gift giving, but companies would be wise to
ensure their policies in this area are adequate and properly enforced,” said
Andrew Gordon, partner and head of investigations at PwC forensic services.
“In the current difficult economic climate,
although some companies may have reined in their spending, others may be
tempted to bestow lavish gifts in a bid to keep their customers sweet.”
He added that businesses should proactively
make vendors aware of their policy, including posting it on their website.
The Bribery Act allows for “reasonable and
proportionate” corporate hospitality, but the definition of what this entails
has yet to be tested in the courts.
The accounting and audit firm said items
such as calendars, low-cost promotional items such as stress balls and
umbrellas and modest hospitality should be fine. Expensive gifts or overseas
entertainment should ring alarm bells and lavish hampers, cases of fine wine or
anything delivered to a home address is not acceptable.
“A Christmas food hamper, for example, from
Fortnum & Mason costing
several thousand pounds would clearly not pass the reasonableness test under
the guidance. But hampers aside, it’s not generally a black and white area;
much will depend on the context and intent of the gift,” added Gordon.
This month, a survey found
that less than two-fifths of US firms specify in a policy the maximum value of a gift that can be accepted.
The CIPS code of professional ethics
states members should “not accept inducements or gifts, other than items of