The Select Committee on the Bribery Act 2010 has published its post-legislative scrutiny report, concluding that the Act is exemplary. Following 23 oral evidence sessions and 61 written submissions, the Committee agreed with the view of the witnesses and other contributors that the Act is working well, and is an example to other countries, especially developing countries.
Throughout the inquiry the Committee found that the Bribery Act 2010 is considered an international gold standard for anti-bribery and corruption legislation. The structure of the Act, the offences it created, and its interaction with Deferred Prosecution Agreements have been largely praised. The evidence heard by the Committee suggested that Deferred Prosecution Agreements are largely effective, and, when used appropriately, are not an 'easy way out'.
However, the Government must improve the advice they provide to small and medium-sized companies on how best to export their products and services while remaining compliant with the Bribery Act. Witnesses reported a lack of co-operation between the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Serious Fraud Office (SFO), police, National Crime Agency, HMRC and others, which must be remedied. Further to this, the CPS and SFO should make speeding up bribery prosecutions a priority.
The Chairman of the Committee, Lord Saville of Newdigate, said:
"The Bribery Act 2010 is a model piece of legislation. Not a single witness had any major criticisms of the Act. It effectively defines offences in a clear and concise manner, and acts as a deterrent.
"While we make recommendations for a number of improvements to the Act, and hope that the Government takes these on board, the legislation is working well and the Committee was greatly encouraged by the evidence received."
Recommendations included in the report
- A lack of awareness of and training on the Bribery Act may be a contributing factor in the lack of bribery prosecutions. The City of London Police's Economic Crime Academy should expand its anti-bribery training programme, and every police force should commit to ensuring it has at least one specialist.
- The Government must ensure that UK companies are provided with support on corruption issues in the countries to which they export, by properly trained and instructed officials. Even the smaller UK embassies must have at least one official who is an expert in local customs and cultures, or who can rapidly contact officials of foreign government departments on behalf of companies facing problems in this field.
- The Ministry of Justice should consider adding clearer examples to the Guidance of when corporate hospitality is legitimate and when it is not.
Deferred Prosecution Agreements
The inquiry also looked at Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs), which although not derived from the Bribery Act, allow cases to be settled without the companies involved being convicted of offences.
The Committee concluded that:
- Despite initial concerns, DPAs are not, and have not been seen to be "an easy way out".
- Discounts applied to financial penalties are appropriate to encourage companies to self-report but not so large as to deprive the penalty of its effectiveness.
- DPAs are not, and cannot be, a substitute for the prosecution of any individuals involved in corrupt conduct.