By Max Clarke

Experts at the forensics division of NGS Secure have urged businesses to take advantage of the delay to the implementation of the Bribery Act to ensure their technology will not leave them open to prosecution.

The SFO, which will be the enforcement agency for the new Act, will have right of access to all correspondence, giving them free rein to seize all technology if they suspect a breach has taken place. This would not only include company desktops and laptops, but also mobile devices and even employees’ home laptops.

Any suspected illegal activity — or even action taken by the company perceived to hide illegal activity — could result at best in severe disruption to day-to-day business, and at worst in an unlimited fine. Already, the SFO has signalled its intent, with the jailing of two former directors of construction business, Mabey and Johnson, for their involvement in a corrupt kickback deal involving the sale of bridges to Iraq.

Steve Wilkinson, Head of Forensics at NGS Secure, an NCC Group company, said: “If the authorities are called in, everyone will know about it — staff will be unable to carry out daily tasks, and the damage to reputation could be considerable, even if the company is found not to have committed an offence. Businesses need to undertake a thorough risk assessment, working out where they might be exposed, and use the time they have before the implementation of the Act to get their houses in order.

“Technology will be central to all examinations of correspondence, and so businesses must be aware of what they are dealing with. A forensic investigation in advance of the Act coming in will allow organisations to find out where they stand early, and, most importantly, without causing chaos and chatter among employees and clients — but it is vital to seek advice. The sheer scale of examining everything from emails to texts and instant messages requires the skills of an expert investigator to ensure a thorough audit has taken place.

“When it comes to the Bribery Act, forewarned is forearmed. Being able to demonstrate that you have taken every step possible to prevent illegal activity taking place will stand you in good stead if the worst should happen and could, ultimately, save your business.”

The Bribery Act is now expected to come into force in May 2011, although this is yet to be confirmed.