Ethics and anti-corruption

Private sector appointments

When and how may former government employees take up appointments in the private sector and vice versa?

Civil servants, including those employed by the MoD, wishing to take up appointment in the private sector are bound by the Business Appointment Rules (the Rules). For most civil servants, the Rules are triggered in certain circumstances, for example, when an individual has been involved in developing a policy affecting their prospective employer, has had official dealings with their prospective employer or has had access to commercially sensitive information regarding competitors of their prospective employer. In these circumstances, the individual must apply for approval from the relevant department before accepting any new appointment for up to two years after the individual leaves the civil service. Approval can be given unconditionally, or can be subject to specific restrictions.

Separate and more onerous obligations apply to senior civil servants (permanent secretaries, SCS3-level employees and equivalents) under the Rules. Similar provisions apply to members of the armed forces, intelligence agencies and the diplomatic service.

These Rules do not have legislative force but, as regulations issued by the Minister for the Civil Service, they are binding on both the government and its employees.

Private sector employees are not subject to any specific regulations governing the commencement of employment by the government. They may, however, be subject to specific restrictions detailed in their employment contracts and should be mindful of any potential conflict of interest.

Addressing corruption

How is domestic and foreign corruption addressed and what requirements are placed on contractors?

The Bribery Act 2010 criminalises domestic and overseas bribery in the private and public sectors. It also provides for the corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery.

Giving, offering or agreeing to give a bribe is an offence, as is accepting, asking for or agreeing to accept a bribe. The bribe may be anything of value, whether monetary or otherwise, provided it is intended to influence or reward improper behaviour where the recipient performs public or business functions and is subject to a duty of trust or good faith. When the recipient is a foreign public official, the impropriety requirement does not apply.

Commercial organisations are strictly liable for any primary bribery offences (except receipt of a bribe) committed by anyone performing services on behalf of the organisation. This almost invariably includes employees, agents, intermediaries and other service providers. The organisation has a defence if it has ‘adequate procedures’ in place to prevent bribery. The Ministry of Justice has issued guidance on what is ‘adequate’, identifying six principles of bribery prevention:

  • risk assessment;
  • proportionate procedures;
  • due diligence;
  • communication and training;
  • top-level commitment; and
  • monitoring and review.

Prosecution of bribery offences is handled by the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Serious Fraud Office.


What are the registration requirements for lobbyists or commercial agents?

The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 requires that anyone in the business of consultant lobbying be registered with the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists. Consultant lobbying includes any personal oral or written communication to a Minister of the Crown or permanent secretary relating to any contract or other agreement or the exercise of any other function of the government. Such a business must then record details of the company and its directors, of any code of conduct that it adopts and, on a quarterly basis, the names of any entities on whose behalf it has actually submitted any communications.

Limitations on agents

Are there limitations on the use of agents or representatives that earn a commission on the transaction?

Public sector procurement in the United Kingdom is based on free and open competition designed to achieve value for money for the taxpayer, with a high level of transparency of the procurement process and tender terms. Part of the objective is to discourage the perceived benefit of using intermediaries to liaise with government procurement officials and thereby put a given supplier at an advantage. As a result, it is uncommon to use success-fee-based agents and intermediaries in the way that happens in certain other markets, although some suppliers do use external assistance to help them understand the procurement process. However, there is no general prohibition on the use of agents or on their levels of remuneration, although individual tenders may include specific disclosure requirements. Registration may be required where the agent’s activity falls within the requirements described in question 29.

A supplier who appoints an agent within the terms of the Commercial Agents’ (Council Directive) Regulations 1993 to develop its presence in a given market may be obliged to pay additional compensation on termination. Otherwise, the 1993 Regulations do not prescribe maximum or minimum levels of remuneration.