The government has been clamping down on bribery, but many companies are at risk of being accused without even knowing it. Aimed at accountants, auditors and finance officers, Aziz Rahman offers five tips to prevent your staff from being bribed.
1. Should you really be accepting that gift?
Much depends on the timing. If your staff are receiving gifts right at the time that you’re about to award contracts, alarm bells should be ringing.
It doesn’t have to be big, expensive gifts either. Sometimes, an accumulation of small gifts over time can be interpreted as bribery.
On a very small scale, if a student buys their room cleaner a box of chocolates to say thank you for doing a good job, this is fine. If this is then followed up with similar gifts as a means of “sweetening the cleaner up” so they’ll clean the person’s room first, this can be classed as bribery.
2. Hospitality – Is this the first time you’ve been taken out by a client?
The Financial Conduct Authority is putting the squeeze on companies that use perks such as trips to sporting events or meals out as a means of bribing somebody.
Is the hospitality timed to coincide with a business decision being made? Is it the first time the person has offered such hospitality? Is it being offered only to the people who are making a particular business decision? If the answer to all these is yes, it could be considered bribery.
3. Be wary of clients offering services for free
It may be that you or your colleagues need some extra workplace resources. If a current or potential client offers to provide any of this for free or at a reduced rate, you have to ask why they are making this offer.
Scenario: you’re looking to procure some new technology services. While you’re still in the decision-making process, one such company has offered to provide your staff with some free equipment. Is this a gesture of goodwill to cement a strong relationship, or is it a bribe?
4. Are they really doing you a favour?
Someone offering to sort out a problem, give free advice or put you in touch with someone who can help can all be favours offered with the best intentions.
But these are not favours if the person giving them expects something specific in return. Is the timing of the favour linked to any business decision?
Sometimes it’s difficult to differentiate between a “nice turn” and a bribe. Again, timing is key.
5. Do “mates’ rates” exist or is it just an elaborate bribe?
Everyone loves a bargain. Often people doing business with each other tend to ‘look after’ each other. This can be a genuine attempt to help out an acquaintance. But it could also be bribery.
If you’re receiving goods or services for a knock-down price, you need to flag it and ensure there’s nothing untoward happening.
By Aziz Rahman, senior partner at Rahman Ravelli