The Bribery Act - helping Cinderella get to the ball

The Bribery Act - a reflection by Mike Betts
Posted by: Mike Betts | Last modified on 22/06/2016

The Economic Crime Academy's Mike Betts reflects on the Bribery Act 2010 and its role in helping bribery get to the top of the Economic Crime priority list.


As response to Bribery in the United Kingdom is now on such an industrial scale, with research projects, corporate advisor’s and experts in abundance, it is easy to forget there was a time before the introduction of the Bribery Act 2010 when it was the Cinderella to the ugly sisters of the counter fraud and compliance world.


In the early 2000’s I was asked to develop a bribery investigation course in part in response to a critical review of the law enforcement response to the investigation of corruption.


In policing at that time the there was a limited experience and corporate memory of the investigation of bribery, those with experience included the Ministry of Defence Police who had dealt with corruption in the supply chain, the case of Gordon Foxley being infamous.


A number of Home Office forces who had dealt with a series of sporadic cases in the main centred on planning and local council corruption, the case Speechly, the Leader of Lincolnshire Council, being a good example of particularly fine detective work.


In these cases the investigators were trying to maximise the application of the offences of Misconduct in a Public Office and the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906.  Indeed I was fortunate to travel to Hong Kong to visit the Independent Commission Against Corruption were and in some eyes still are the most effective anti-corruption agency in the world to gain an insight into combating corruption.


It was obvious to me that they had created a highly effective response to chronic corruption by having an independent organisation which had three key outputs, namely; prevention, community engagement and enforcement. Based on my experience I developed a bribery investigation training programme and delivered it to the Serious Fraud Office, City of London Police Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit and wider law enforcement.


Subsequent developments saw the Serious Fraud Office taking a more significant role in investigating Bribery, a pivotal case being the BAE Systems investigation. Then after much discussion the Bribery Act 2010 received royal assent on the 8th April 2010, which as we now know was an absolute game changer in the response to corruption. 


In my view the Bribery Act is one of the most effective bits of legislation to be introduced in recent times, in particular as a tool for the investigator and the section 7 seven offence of corporate liability for organisations who fail to prevent bribery committed by someone associated with the organisation.


So what has the Bribery Act 2010 achieved? One of the most significant consequences of the Act has been the corporate engagement both by organisations supporting the implementation of adequate procedures and those adopting the procedures. This has in turn led to an explosion in the numbers of people engaged in the corporate sector engaged in countering bribery, which is good for the organisation and society more widely.


The implementation of adequate procedures is a weave of top level commitment, undertaking a risk assessment, developing proportionate procedures, ensuring due diligence is undertaken on those who the business engages with and providing training.


One of the curious things is the use of the term ABC. It is widely used and is short for anti-bribery and corruption. I often ask myself what does ‘anti’ really mean? Is it the appropriate term? Perhaps CBC might be better, namely countering bribery and corruption?


To end I’m incredibly pleased that Bribery has left the kitchen and now at the ‘ball’ hopefully to remain there for the foreseeable future!