The Bribery Act 2010 – ICE Meeting 11th January 2011

Another of our ICE Essex Branch evening meetings was held last Tuesday 11th January at Anglia Ruskin University.  Richard Cooke of Birketts llp – a local law firm with offices in Chelmsford – gave a very interesting talk on the new Bribery Act 2010 and it implications for the construction industry.

Richard Cooke is a partner in the Construction, Planning and Environment team. Richard has worked as in-house Counsel to a large international contractor, worked in-house with a substantial public sector infrastructure client and was a partner in a leading City construction team for a number of years.

The meeting was very well supported with nearly 50 members and guests in attendance.  In addition, the meeting was filmed as part of the ICE’s Regional Broadcast Trial and as such will soon be available to watch again on-line at www.online-cpd.net.

Attendees networking prior to the meeting

Richards presentation was very interactive and Richard generated audience participation at various points throughout.  The presentation was supported with a pack of documents which was well received by attendees.

Richard started his presentation by quizzing the audience on their perceptions as to how common bribery is in the construction and generally.  The figures he then provided suggested that it was far more prevalent than people thought!

In his section on the background to the act Richard referred to the 2006 CIOB Survey – Corruption in the Construction Industry. A copy of the survey is available on-line from here.  This survey suggested that 41% of people during the period referred to in the survey had been offered a bribe or incentive at least once to engage in corrupt practice in the construction industry.

Richard went on to refer to a 2007 Survey by KPMG on Overseas Bribery and Corruption.  A copy of this survey is available on-line from here.  This survey found that in the period in question, the perceived frequency with which bribery and corruption practices are used to gain contracts or commercial advantages abroad was that 68% of people percieved it to happen to one degree or another.

CIOB and KPMG Surveys

On International Perspectives Richard described the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions 1997 – OCED Anti-Bribery Convention for short – and the organisation Transparency International and their 2008 Progress Report on enforcement of the OCED Convention.

Richard then highlighted the well publicised Serious Fraud Office inquiry into the £50 Billion Al Yamamah deal relating to the contract to supply fighter aircraft to Saudi Arabia.  Further details on this are available extensively on the web.  The Wikapedia entry relating to this can be read here.  Richard also noted the Siemens AG 2001 to 2007 falsified corporate books and records case – see here – and the Autumn 2008 Balfour Beatty Alexandrina Bibliotheca  case – see here.

In November 2008 the UK Law Commission produced their Report on Reforming Bribery which included the Draft Bill.  This followed an extensive consultation process.  The consultation paper can be found here

Richard continued his presentation by describing the details of the Act and why it cannot be ignored, common offences that can sometime unknowingly be committed under the Act, areas of particular risk, and the scale of fines that can result of breaching the Act.

The presentation finished with a section on the need for organisations to have adequate procedures to comply with the act and highlighting some links to guidance and advice.  These links are included below:

The presentation was followed by a lively Q&A session.  A recurring point of discussion was that regarding ‘grease’ or ‘facilitation’ payments that can be a matter of daily life in some countries.  Richards advice was clear – that these payments are illegal and must not be made under the Act – something that it is hard to avoid in many circumstances.

One of the points raised during the presentation was whether the ICE had commented on the consultation papers.  Appendix B of the report linked above gives a listing of those organisations and individuals who were consulted and the ICE were not one of them.  This does seem strange when the construction industry was and probably still is perceived to be one of the worst offending sectors.

One of the main points highlighted at the end of Richards presentation was the need to have adequate procedures and polices.  This prompted me to look up my employer’s (Carillion plc) documents relating to the act.  Carillion’s Ethics and Business Policy is published on the corporate website and was updated in September 2010 to incorporate the requirements of the Bribery Act.  Key staff training in the implications of the act was also given in late 2010.

A copy of Richards presentation is available on-line and can be viewed here.  A direct link to the video recording will  be added here once available.

Richards contact details are:

Richard Cooke – email richard-cooke@birketts.co.uk – tel 01245 211375

This meeting was an extremely interesting and enlightening one which – via the writing of this blog also – has provided and significantly improved understanding of both the background, development and implementation of the Bribery Act but also of the mechanics of some aspects of the judicial / law systems in the UK.  I hope the reading of this blog and reference to some of the websites and documents herein linked provide readers with similar learning.

I welcome any comments that readers may have.

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