I was shocked to read The Grocer’s survey on bribery (7 July), which found almost half the senior executives polled had known a salesperson to offer a bribe to a retail or wholesale buyer, while almost two-fifths had known a buyer to ask for one.
The Bribery Act coming into force exactly a year ago. However, more than a quarter of respondents in The Grocer’s survey said bribery was now more frequent than ever.
Since July 2011, an individual found bribing another person, receiving a bribe or bribing a foreign official faces both criminal and civil prosecution. In addition, a corporate body can commit the offence of failing to prevent bribery.
A single instance of bribery does not mean a company’s procedures are inadequate. But companies should be able to show they have adequate procedures in place to safeguard against the risk of bribery.
So what can you do to prevent bribery in your workplace? For a start, all companies should carry out a risk assessment to identify areas of concern, and ensure no employee is in a situation where a bribe may be made or received.
Harmajinder Hayre, employment partner for HR Legal Service, says all firms should have an anti-bribery policy - but warns that this on its own is “unlikely to provide a defence if bribery is exposed within the business”.
A corporate body can be liable for the actions of an associated person, so it is also important to be wary of the third parties your organisation deals with. Hayre recommends having a disclosure policy, an anti-fraud officer to whom all suspicions can be reported, and a procedure through which well-founded suspicions can be reported to the Serious Fraud Office.
And don’t forget to make sure staff know how to find and implement your company’s anti-bribery policy and report any suspicions to the correct person in your company.
An anti-bribery policy will help to identify and prevent the sort of bad practices The Grocer has unearthed. As ex-Sainsbury’s potato buyer John Maylam found to his cost last month, the consequences of not complying are severe.
HR Legal Service is offering a free Bribery toolkit, normally worth £99.99, to readers of The Grocer. To receive yours visit www.hrlegalservice.co.uk