We have always maintained high standards of integrity at Acorn and this has become more important than ever with recent changes in legislation. The Bribery Act 2010 has given us additional responsibilities to ensure that our already high standards of honesty and ethics are continued.
Acorn operates a zero-tolerance approach to the payment and receiving of bribes or payments that encourage the improper performance of an office or activity. Conduct of this type is absolutely prohibited. This extends to all Directors, managers and employees but also to agents, consultants, sub-contractors and joint venture partners of the company.
While it is unlikely that any of our transactions will fall within the Act, which does not prevent reasonable hospitality, we must operate a robust anti-bribery policy to ensure that the necessary due diligence is carried out when a potential risk arises. It is essential that you read this policy as it sets out what constitutes ‘bribery’ and what our responsibilities are under the Act. It also sets out generally what is and is not acceptable behaviour. If you have any doubts or queries, you should always speak to the Compliance Officer for this policy.
Romy Summerskill, Executive Chairman
Melanie Omirou, Executive Group Managing Director
The Bribery Act 2010
The Bribery Act 2010 (the “Act”) makes it a criminal offence to:
- Offer, promise or give a bribe;
- Request, agree to receive or accept a bribe;
- Bribe a foreign public official in order to obtain or retain business or an advantage in the conduct of business; and
- Fail to prevent bribery on behalf of a commercial organisation. The maximum sentence for bribery committed by an individual is 10 years imprisonment.
Who Does the Policy Apply To?
This policy applies to all Acorn employees, sub-contractors, joint-venture partners, agents, consultants and suppliers working on behalf of the company, both in the UK and overseas. Compliance with the policy is mandatory and is the responsibility of all employees of Acorn to detect and report instances of bribery.
A breach of this policy by an employee, agent, sub-contractor or supplier could result in the company breaching the Act. An offence under the Act can result in the Company being fined and would cause Acorn’s good reputation to be diminished.
If you believe that you have discovered an instance of bribery taking place, it is vital that you report it to the Compliance Officer as early as possible. Absolute confidence will be maintained and reports of bribery will be treated as confidential. Failure to comply with this policy is a very serious offence and could result in disciplinary action being taken.
Understanding and Recognising Bribery
Bribery can occur in different ways so it is important to take a wide view. If you are in doubt whether an act can be considered to be bribery, you should check with the Compliance Officer before taking any action.
Bribery is an act whereby someone is encouraged to perform their job or activities improperly. Therefore, any financial or other advantage offered to a person to encourage them to do something they would not ordinarily do is an act of bribery. The key test is whether the advantage provided has changed or was intended to change the way in which the recipient has carried out their job.
Bribery can occur in the construction industry at a number of stages; it can occur when tendering for sub-contractors when appointing agents or appointing service providers or suppliers. It can also arise when agents are carrying out their duties on the company’s behalf.
It can occur in the form of facilitation payments, charitable donations, political contributions, inspection fees and even payments for licences or permits.
Generally, reasonable hospitality is not considered to be bribery and the Bribery Act is not designed to prevent corporate hospitality, which is a widely accepted method of generating new business and maintaining good relations with existing business partners. However, lavish gifts or hospitality may be considered to be bribes if they are excessive under the circumstances and intended to influence the decision of the recipient.
Facilitation Payments are payments or gifts made to speed up a process or secure a particular service. They are often relatively low value and made to public officials to encourage them to perform or speed up tasks they are already under an obligation to carry out.
Political and charitable contributions can also fall within the definition of bribery if the intention of the contribution is to speed up a process or to obtain an advantage in a business transaction.
Acorn is still committed to making contributions to support charities and these will continue to be given according to company policy, ensuring that there is no question that such donations are designed to obtain an advantage.
Hospitality and Promotional Expenditure
Bona fide hospitality, promotional expenditure or other business expenditure for the purpose of improving the image of the company is not prevented by the Act.
Likewise, business expenditure to establish commercial relations or to present better products and services is also recognised as the ordinary way of doing business and it is not intended that these become criminal acts.
However, hospitality and promotional expenditure must be proportionate and reasonable in the circumstances. If they are excessive and designed to influence the decision making of the recipient, they can fall within the Act.
Risk Assessment and Due Diligence
With each transaction, a risk assessment can be carried out early on by researching the markets the company is proposing to operate in and the people the company will deal with.
Some basic research can be carried out using the internet and it is possible to consult UK diplomatic posts, UK Trade and Investment or Transparency International if the proposed development, agent, sub-contractor or supplier is overseas:
- Foreign & Commonwealth Office: www.fco.gov.uk
- UK Trade & Investment: www.ukti.gov.uk
- Transparency International: www.transparency.org.uk
In some circumstances, a potential risk of bribery may occur. These circumstances may include:
- Where the company seeks to employ an agent, sub-contractor, supplier etc based in a foreign country where the risk of bribery is considered to be high;
- Where it is necessary for the company or our agents, sub-contractors or suppliers to obtain permits, licences or permissions from public officials;
- Where goods are to be imported by or exported to our agents, subcontractors or suppliers and fees or taxes are paid by those agents, subcontractors or suppliers in relation to the import or export.
However, this list is not exhaustive and care should be taken where the circumstances give rise to specific concerns.
Where a potential risk has been identified, due diligence must be carried out to fully assess the level of risk. If you are unsure what level of due diligence needs to be carried out, consult the Compliance Officer.
The due diligence that is necessary need only be proportionate to the potential risk. Therefore, as there is a very low risk of bribery within the UK, the level of due diligence necessary may not be as high as that carried out for overseas transactions.
Where a potential risk has been identified, it is imperative that due diligence is carried out before a business relationship is entered into. It may be necessary to include anti-bribery clauses in the contract or agreement with the proposed business partner and therefore, due diligence must be completed prior to signing any contracts for the provision of the service in question. Furthermore, the business partner must not carry out any work on behalf of the Company before the due diligence has been completed.
Communication and Training
This policy will be available on the Acorn Intranet. Department Managers are responsible for ensuring all existing and new members of staff are made aware of the policy and its importance.
Staff members should be given the opportunity to raise any questions they may have to ensure that this policy and the risks they face are fully understood. Department Managers are also responsible for identifying members of staff whose roles carry a higher risk of encountering situations where acts of bribery can arise. Department Managers should provide training to staff members whose roles carry this higher risk, ensuring staff are capable of identifying risks and understand the communication paths for reporting risks to their manager or the Compliance Officer.
New members of staff should be provided with the policy during induction to ensure they understand their responsibilities.
Updates will be provided to all staff as and when they arise and this policy will be revised as and when updates occur. Notifications will be provided to Department Managers when changes occur.
Monitoring and Review
It is important that risks are monitored to ensure that new or previously unforeseen risks can be identified and assessed. One of the most effective ways of reviewing potential risks is to conduct staff surveys and request feedback from staff, who may be able to identify risks that they could face while undertaking their role.
Furthermore, it is important to review the mechanisms for identifying and assessing risks. Any areas of concern or suggested improvements should be raised with the Compliance Officer, who will adopt this policy to ensure it remains robust.