The Bribery Act Stranglehold
I’ve been seeing a lot about the Bribery Act lately, and naturally solicitors, accountants and all other professional services firms have been promoting their guidance and advice on how to deal with this new legislation. However, despite all this guidance what does it really mean for businesses dealing overseas?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for legislation that makes bribery illegal as we have all no doubt seen examples of companies doing backdoor deals to win contracts, shutting out opportunities for other companies to get in. It is made even worse in public sector contracts where it’s the tax payers money has been used in pay bribes and for the contracts themselves, where perhaps better value could have been found elsewhere. Although, what about where a countries culture is built up around providing gifts?
Speaking of dealing specifically with China, but most Eastern countries are the same, there is a fine line between providing gifts to win business and build relationships, but that would be seen as bribery in the UK, yet in their culture that is the norm. So could we go so far as to claim the UK legislation is racist against the Chinese culture, to making it illegal to respect their traditions and ultimately making it almost illegal to try and win business from that country? I would say so, and yet another example of legislation being introduced into business in the UK without any real through or consideration to it’s long term consequences.
I agree that handing over brown envelopes in any country is a big no-no, but what about taking some nice gifts for a prospective client when you go visit them in their own country. It is expected in China, likewise when they visit you in the UK it is expected that they too bring gifts from China for you in the UK..whether client, supplier, associate, it is a sign of respect and wish for the relationship to flourish. It is not seen as a “bribe”, yet read the legislation and nice or expensive gifts are not allowed.
So to summarise, so long as you your clients and prospective clients cheap tat then you’re fine. Quite how they would look on that is another thing, and something the powers that be who than draft our business legislation, yet have almost no business experience, fail to understand.