UK: The Bribery Act - What Is An Appropriate Response?

Last Updated: 20 September 2011
Article by Adrian Wild

As a minimum, every charity must assess the risks it faces as a result of the Bribery Act 2010.

As has been well reported in the national press, the Bribery Act 2010 was finally enacted on 1 July this year. The Bribery Act 2010:

  • codifies existing common law
  • consolidates existing statutes
  • creates new offences.

The most onerous new offence created is that of the failure by commercial organisations (including charities) to prevent bribery. This offence is committed if a person associated with the organisation proffers a bribe so as to retain or obtain a commercial advantage.

This offence is onerous for a number of reasons.

  • The offence applies to acts undertaken by associates – which could relate to a large number of people, some of whom you may have little control over.
  • An offence is committed if an associate just offers a bribe – no money need actually change hands.
  • The associate need not have been convicted under the Act.
  • It is a strict liability offence – that is, no element of negligence needs to be proved for an offence to have been committed.
  • There is no limit to the fines which can be levied. Assuming that a bribe has been offered/ made, the main defence for a commercial organisation is to demonstrate that it had adequate procedures in place to prevent acts of bribery.

Adequate procedures

Like a lot of modern law, the Bribery Act 2010 is rather unsatisfactory in providing definite answers; the Act basically delegates the assessment of what adequate procedures are to the courts. Until a number of cases have been brought before the courts, there is no guidance carrying the force of law for charities to follow.

However, the Ministry of Justice has issued guidance together with a Quick start guide to the Act. The Charity Commission has also updated its Compliance Toolkit to cover the Act and guidance for NGOs has been published by Bond (the UK membership body for NGOs working in international development). Taking into account the guidance, we suggest some practical actions which you might wish to take.

Do you actually need to do anything?

The Bribery Act does not compel you to do anything and it would be easy to ignore it, but is that an acceptable response? For a small owner-managed business it may be that the risks are small and that the owner/manager would be the only person in a position to proffer bribes and to suffer any loss arising (from the possible unlimited fines).

However, for charities we don't think that doing nothing is acceptable, for a number of reasons.

  • Charities exist to help their beneficiaries – any loss to the charity would represent a loss to those beneficiaries, rather than to those who were at fault.
  • Trustees are volunteers with limited day-to-day involvement – but they bear overall responsibility for the charity.
  • There is a presumption that trustees will undertake reviews to identify the risks to which the charity is exposed. While the risk of bribery might be considered small, the impact of any breach could be significant.

What is the potential impact?

As well as unlimited fines, there are a range of other possible consequences. Probably the most serious would be the reputational loss for the charity which could adversely impact future funding. Since bribery is a crime, the Proceeds of Crime Act could apply if the charity has received money (for example a grant) as a result of paying a bribe and the courts could confiscate the entire grant.

For trustees the position could be more serious. Under charity law if a charity suffers loss from trustees' negligence, then the trustees could be obliged to make good that loss. If the charity had not put in place procedures to prevent bribery and suffered losses as a result, the trustees could be held to be negligent.

Risk assessment

As a minimum, every charity must assess the risks it faces as a result of the Bribery Act 2010.

Without such a risk assessment, trustees have no basis for either taking further action or to justify why no action is required.

How to assess risks?

So far as bribery is concerned, there are two areas of risk.

1. The receipt of a bribe by staff which influences their decisions.

2. The payment of bribes to procure a commercial advantage for the charity (it is this area which the new offence covers).

For most charities considering these questions and their implications is unlikely to be an onerous exercise. We would assume that for most small UK-based charities few, if any, risks would be identified.

Factors charities operating in the UK should consider

Past history

Have there been instances of bribes being paid or requested in the past?


What activities are undertaken? What scope is there for bribery?

For example:

  • If a charity incurs significant external expenditure (e.g. in constructing properties) is there scope for contractors to proffer bribes?
  • Where a charity is tendering to provide services, is there a possibility that bribes might be requested or proffered by staff?

Business relationships

What entities does the charity have relationships with? Do they have appropriate policies and procedures in place to prevent bribery? For example:

  • public sector tendering processes are usually designed to prevent bribery
  • most grant giving charities have written policies as to how grants are allocated and decisions are made by committee, rather than any one individual
  • grant funders usually have formal processes setting out how such income is allocated.

Third-party reliance

What third parties provide services for the charity? Is there scope for them to proffer bribes on behalf of the charity? For example, could an external fundraiser use funds raised to proffer bribes?

Responding to the risks

The Ministry of Justice's Quick start guide states that "if there is very little risk of bribery... you may not feel the need for any procedures to prevent bribery". While this might be attractive, given the risks of non-compliance with this legislation, to do nothing is probably unwise. This does not mean that substantial additional procedures are needed. All charities should already have systems in place to cover the control of expenditure which should protect against the payment of any bribe by charity staff and the proffering of bribes by third parties in return for favourable treatment of contractors. On this basis, our suggested actions are given in the table to the right.

There has been a lot of press comment relating to the Bribery Act and its potential impact. However, we believe that for most UK-based charities, the Act is unlikely to pose a significant burden. As people become used to the requirements, it will become just one part of the annual risk assessment and management process.

Suggested activities charities should undertake

Update policies

Your policies should be updated to cover bribery and should state that you have a zero tolerance approach. You might like to make this available on your website – for an example, visit anti-bribery-corruption-policy

Staff handbook

Your staff handbook should refer to bribery and include a specific statement that acts of bribery may constitute gross misconduct. The handbook should also give guidance to staff as to what to do if they are offered a bribe or a bribe is solicited from them.


Trustees and key staff should be made aware of the Act and all staff should be made aware of any changes to the staff handbook.


A system for recording any bribes offered or solicited should be implemented. This should simply be added to existing systems for whistleblowing and reporting of frauds. (If these do not exist, a requirement in the staff handbook that acts of bribery should be reported to the chief executive or the chairman would probably suffice).

Reliance on third parties

If you have any significant reliance on third parties (perhaps a fundraising company), as a minimum you should satisfy yourselves that the third party has adequate procedures in place. This might be as simple as asking the third party to confirm this in writing.

In addition, if your risk assessment highlights any specific risks then you should implement appropriate procedures in respect of those risks.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.