Global Witness Welcomes Implementation of the Bribery Act
July 1st, 2011
July 1st, 2011
LONDON – Global Witness welcomes today’s implementation of the UK Bribery Act which, if enforced correctly, will help curb corruption and end poverty around the world. But the group warns that the government will need to provide the necessary resources to effectively enforce the act if its anti-corruption credentials are to be taken seriously.
The Bribery Act makes it an offence for any company or individual with strong links to the UK to pay bribes to foreign public officials. In the case of companies, the Act makes them liable if they fail to prevent bribes paid on their behalf.
“Bribery is not a victimless crime, nor an inevitable cost of doing business abroad,” said George Boden, a campaigner at Global Witness. “Corruption has devastating impacts on the worlds poorest as it diverts huge sums of money away from investment in schools, hospitals and other basic social services and into useless overpriced projects, as well as providing funds to subvert elections and keep the wrong people in power,” Boden continued.
The Bribery Act could help tackle poverty around the world by stemming corruption and instability which undermines development. It could also help create a fair and level playing field for honest UK companies which do not pay bribes. This will only happen, however, if the government now provides adequate resources for its enforcement so that it provides a sufficient deterrent to companies.
The Act has been roundly criticised by business groups on the grounds that companies may accidently find themselves subject to prosecution for minor infringements such as lavish hospitality for potential clients. Global Witness rejects these assertions. The Bribery Act is fit for purpose having undergone extensive consultation with all relevant stakeholders, and passed through Parliament with cross party support. The Ministry of Justice only estimates an additional 1.3 contested prosecutions a year. Companies which do not pay bribes have nothing to fear.
Intensive pressure by business led to two delays in the publication of, and substantial amendments to, the government’s guidance for companies on compliance with the Act, raising serious concerns about the political will to affectively enforce the Act.
“After long delays, we welcome the Act’s introduction as a crucial step forward in the fight against corruption and poverty. However, an Act is only as good as its enforcement. It is now a matter of the government’s commitment and resources as to how effective it will be in practice,” said Boden.
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Notes to editors:
 Ministry of Justice, Bribery Bill Implementation Assessment, p.13 http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/docs/bribery-bill-ia.pdf
The Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development addresses inequalities in the global financial system that penalize billions of people, and advocates for improved transparency and accountability.
Global Witness is a coordinating committee and founding member of the Task Force on Financial Integrity & Economic Development .
For additional information please visit http://www.financialtransparency.org