Is your organisation complying with the UK Bribery Act?

Hannah Kowszun was NCVO’s Marketing & Membership Manager until July 2014. Her blog posts have been archived here.

In July 2011 the UK Bribery Act came into force. And it was a long time coming. Reports and consultations throughout the 90s suggested our bribery laws were inadequate, but it took another ten years for an act to be passed.

Now, and most pertinently for our members, the failure of an organisation to prevent bribery on its behalf, is a crime punishable by fines and even prison time.

However, research conducted by Baker Tilly in Winter 2011/2012, showed that of 120 charities consulted, only 1% thought the Bribery Act would have a significant effect on their organisation. This is a risky assumption to make.

The UK Bribery Act applies in most countries to UK charities, charitable organisations and their employees, and in most cases to the charity and its board; penalties could include hefty fines and even imprisonment.

So is your organisation vulnerable to bribery?

Here are a few examples for you to consider:

  • a charity’s operations in a country depend on imports of critical supplies, and small bribes are being paid to customs officials to release the supplies
  • a heritage organisation’s employee visits an archaeological site in an emerging country and a small bribe (a ‘facilitation payment’) is demanded at the airport by the immigration officer
  • job applicants bribe a charity’s local recruitment officer to win employment in an overseas community development project
  • an overseas recruitment agent for a school takes bribes from the families of potential students
  • parents offer to make a substantial gift to a school with the proviso that their child is guaranteed admission

These, along with case studies and more detailed scenarios of acts of bribery affecting charitable organisations appear in the guidance on anti-bribery principles for not for profit organisations, released yesterday by Transparency International UK, in partnership with Baker Tilly and Mischon de Reya.

The size of your organisation shouldn’t be a guide for whether you need to put anti-bribery measures in place. Instead consider the potential risks and impact. There is a quick guide checklist in the appendix, which can help your board decide whether this guidance does apply and consider next steps.

Over to you.

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