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Businesses facing problems preparing for the Bribery Act

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A significant proportion of British firms say that they need more time to ready themselves for the Bribery Act.

The Act is due to come into effect on 1 July, but, according to a survey carried out by Thomson Reuters, as many as four out of ten businesses (39 per cent) feel that senior executives and board members are not adequately prepared for the impact of the new legislation.

The survey took in more than 400 senior compliance officers, risk managers, internal auditors, lawyers and company secretaries.

On the upside, however, two-thirds of those questioned thought that any disruptions caused by new procedures will not affect their bottom line and that the implementation of the rules will be cost neutral.

Stacey English, head of regulatory intelligence at Thomson Reuters, commented: “This seems reasonable, given that implementation of the Act should simply be an extension of existing procedures and controls.

However, she added that “there is no room for complacency and many firms still have a lot of work to do”.

One of the most pressing concerns revealed by the survey is a lack of awareness at board level of the requirements of the Act.

There are six essential principles for companies to follow in order to ensure compliance with the Act, one of which is the need for top-level commitment.

Yet 16 per cent of those businesses polled conceded that they had had no discussions with the board about the new anti-corruption legislation; a quarter had discussed the Act just once.

Ms English continued: “Regulators and law enforcement agencies will be looking to the board for leadership under the new Act. Board members need to set the tone for behaviour in this new environment. That’s what the law is asking for, and what regulators will expect.”

Perhaps as worringly, one in five respondents admitted to being totally unprepared for Act, a figure that suggests many companies are unsure how to plan for changes in the way they do business under the new law.

Some three-quarters of companies reported that they needed to change existing policies or implement new ones to ensure their business practices comply with the new rules.

But the poll also revealed only 10 per cent of companies had allocated extra budget and resources to do this.

Ms English added that training and communication form important parts of the compliance.

She said: “There is a responsibility placed on a company to inform not only their staff but the employees of any third-party service providers it uses. Everyone involved in business dealings needs to be aware of the firm’s anti-bribery policies and stance with the Bribery Act.

“The survey suggests this is not happening yet. This Act is designed to have the maximum deterrent effect, and companies need to realise how wide-reaching its powers are. The Serious Fraud Office intends to enforce this Act not only in the UK but internationally.”