The UK Bribery Act of 2010 is arguably the most intensive revision of the anti-corruption law in the United Kingdom. Since its implementation on 1 July 2011, the law redefined how companies, partnerships, individuals, and foreign companies operating within the UK approached policing. There has been notable improvement in risk assessment and its control since then.
Prior to the UKBA 2010, businesses were regulated through legislation such as the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906, the common law offence on bribery, the Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act 1889, and the Prevention of Corruption Act 1996. The diversity of these regulations only resulted to inconsistencies and inadequacy in checking bribery.
The Act is more elaborate on what constitutes criminal offences. In addition to the existing offences, the new law captures requesting, paying, offering, or receiving a bribe. It is also an offense to bribe a foreign public official. According to this Act, failing to prevent the offering of bribes constitutes corporate offense. However, failing to prevent bribery may not attract a penalty if the directors of a company have put in place adequate procedures to curb this vice.
Directors of businesses found in bribery offense maybe jailed for 10 years and their organizations fined. In addition, there may be hefty legal costs not mentioning the reputation damage the prosecutions may attract. The maximum offense for a breach is unlimited fines.
Despite the harsh costs, businesses have benefited immensely from the Act. One distinctive feature is that the Act offers clarity. Previous legislation lacked clarity, which turned out to be a risk in itself. Now companies know better where they stand. Additionally, the UK Bribery Act has redefined the way business owners transact with third parties. Managers now have a more accurate view of how they can conduct businesses and manage risks.
To ensure the effective implementation of the Act, businesses had to institute some changes on leadership from the top. Anti-bribery mechanisms had to be developed, corruption programs enacted, and a culture of eradicating corruption instilled. Organisations must also develop clear codes of conduct that provide guidance on ambiguous expenditures. For instance, expenditure on entertainment, travel, and charitable works need to be well defined.
The Bribery Act is now without its shortcomings too. Within the years it has been in operation, there have still been concerns over the legal certainty of the Act. Areas of concern include adequate procedures defense, the meaning of relevant commercial organization, and ‘associated person’. Despite this, it is commendable how the UK has taken a great step into curbing bribery. Businesses will greatly benefit if they maintain a zero-tolerance approach to bribery.