By Daniel Hunter

The Fraud, Investigations and Disputes Services (FIDS) team at Ernst & Young has today (Monday) revealed new research which shows that nearly one in four (24%) believe that the Bribery Act is affecting Britain’s competitiveness.

The survey of middle managers found that, of those who considered the law damaging, 78% cited the effects of losing out to competitors paying bribes and 22% the cost of compliance placed on companies.

The findings, though less stark than fears last year over the damage the Act might do to UK competitiveness, nevertheless, reflect a continuing uncertainty about its impact. Only 30% of those with awareness of the new laws were convinced they would not ultimately damage British competitiveness.

These findings, based on a survey of 1000 UK middle managers, shows much uncertainty is based on lack of awareness and misconceptions about the Act which came into force in July. Perhaps this isn’t surprising, given that the survey also revealed only 15% had received any kind of training or guidance from their employer about the Bribery Act.

Middle management is particularly important as they are most likely to be making many of the day-to-day decisions where they might be forced to come across temptations to receive or accept bribes, and spot red flags.

“Businesses may feel that they have been placed at a competitive disadvantage due to the Bribery Act," John Smart, partner at Ernst & Young explained.

"In the short term it may seem to hand opportunities to less scrupulous competitors, particularly in sectors or countries where the risks of bribes or facilitation payments are more common. However with increasing enforcement and a global drive to reduce corruption, in the long run there will be a level playing field among different countries.

“Although the requirements set out by the Bribery Act clearly need to be taken very seriously, it is wrong to assume that the Act will hurt British competitiveness on the global stage. With the right policies, procedures and systems in place, British companies have nothing to fear, and neither do their customers.

“Nearly one year on we are finding that companies operating in countries where corruption is endemic still need a better understanding of the risks. It is necessary to have policies and procedures in place to protect themselves not just from temptation to pay bribes, but also from receiving unlawful payments. Building in checks and awareness is also vital to counter the risk of potential fraud from within an organisation.”

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