The Bribery Act – it was only a day at the Rugby, M’Lud!

Those occasional trips to the rugby...bottles of wine at Xmas...all very innocent.  Until....The Bribery Act!

The Bribery Act is expected to come into force in April 2011.  It may not have impinged on your consciousness but as a procurement person, or a supplier, or indeed pretty much anyone in a decision making executive role, it probably should.

Read this for a very good summary from Biggart Baillie, the law firm; I found it bit of an eye-opener.

It is the intent of the bribe, not the outcome, that is the key to whether some action might be caught by the provisions of the Act.

"An offence is committed if a person promises or gives financial or other advantage to another person and by doing so, intends to induce or reward that other person for improper performance of an activity".

That feels a little worrying in that why would anyone give any gifts or hospitality if they didn't think there was some chance of influencing behaviour! But I guess the 'improper' word is key here.

Corporate hospitality is covered, but there is no presumption that all such hospitality is forbidden. It is the scale (and I guess the intent again) that matters.  However, as Biggart Baillie say,

"Lavish corporate hospitality, however, may raise issues. Just what that might be is a judgement call – perhaps, like defining an elephant, you know it when you see it."

So... a round of golf or a reasonable dinner to discuss that contract; probably OK.  But flying the CPO for three days of golf and big dinners at Gleneagles, or to see England play in Bulgaria... dodgy, decidedly dodgy!

So make sure as a buyer or supplier you have a clear policy in place.  Look at the CIPS ethical code if you haven't got anything of your own.  My personal view is that a 'no gifts' policy (except for advertising materials of no resale value) is the most sensible approach - I could never deal with the concept of,   "the odd bottle of wine at Christmas is fine".  Oh yes?  What if it is a bottle of Lafite 1990 (current value around £900)?  Do I have to get my gifts valued before I know whether I can accept them?

Hospitality is more difficult but one good test I have seen used (for procurement people)  is that it should be of a level that your organisation could reciprocate.  So would you buy a supplier lunch at  Pizza Express?  Probably.  The Fat Duck?  Maybe not.  So apply that to what you accept.

And if in doubt, just say 'no'.  It makes sense...

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