Transparency International has published its 2013 edition of Business Principles for Countering Bribery. This edition is a concise, up to date and very practical reference for companies that want to develop stronger and more effective anti-bribery programmes.

The first edition of Business Principles for Countering Bribery (BP) was published in 2003 and revised in 2009. The third edition, now published, reflects recent developments in anti-bribery practice and incorporates changes to the original text. A steering committee drawn from business, academia, trade unions and other non-governmental bodies worked together to develop this 2013 edition. Comments received in a public consultation were also taken into account.  

To date, corporations wishing to establish anti-bribery compliance management systems or to re-evaluate their existing systems can benefit from a large number of guidelines suggested by regulatory authorities and non-governmental organisations. The current version of Transparency International's BP seems both comprehensive and practical. It addresses several important angles of Anti-Bribery policies that were not addressed in previous versions, in particular: 

  • Risk assessment

An effective bribery risk assessment process must start with gathering sufficient and relevant information about an organisation's business activities and relationships. With this information, an organisation can then determine how those features expose it to a risk of bribery. See also In context November 2013: Transparency International's Guide on bribery risk assessment

  • Conflicts of interest

The 2013 edition introduces conflicts of interest in view of the importance of monitoring and managing conflicts of interests and their potential connection to corrupt behaviour.  

  • Facilitation payments

Facilitation payments was added to the 2013 edition because of changing corporate practice, and the absence of exceptions for facilitation payments in new bribery legislation such as the UK Bribery Act. A company must recognise facilitation payments as bribes and prohibit them. 

  • Business relationships

An anti-bribery programme should be implemented in all of the company's entities over which it has effective control. The company should document relevant aspects of the implementation or equivalent by associated business entities. And if the policies and practices of those associated business entities are in conflict with the company's own principles, those entities should take appropriate action. Action can include requiring correction of deficiencies in the implementation of the entity's programme and also the application of sanctions. The company should be entitled to terminate the relationship if an associated business entity engages in bribery or acts in a manner inconsistent with the company's own programme. 

Other important topics in the BP, albeit not new, may be of great importance for corporations when assessing their general compliance management system: 

  • Organisation and responsibilities

The management board or a similar body should demonstrate visible and active commitment to implementing the company's anti-bribery programme, and the Chief Executive Officer should be responsible for the implementation of the programme under his supervision. 

  • Human resources

HR practices including recruitment, promotion, training etc., should reflect the company's commitment to its programme. HR practices and policies should be developed and carried out in consultation with employees and, for example, trade unions. It should be clear that no employee will suffer demotion, penalty or other consequences for refusing to pay bribes even if refusal may result in the company losing business. Appropriate sanctions should be applied for violation of the programme.

In light of the recent anti-bribery and corruption global enforcement trends, corporations failing to maintain an effective anti-bribery compliance management system risk extensive fines and reputational damage. The BP offers a useful reference for corporations to re-evaluate their current efforts to combat bribery and corruption. 

Commentary on the 2013 edition will be developed and aims to provide background to and understanding of the BP's provisions. It will also highlight the new clauses. For more information about anti-bribery programmes, please contact our experts at De Brauw.

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.