How do you know that it is safe to do business in a particular country, without becoming responsible for bribery under the UK’s new Bribery Act?

The Act has a uniquely long reach for UK businesses. Businesses can be responsible in the UK for the criminal offence of bribery, where the wrongful act occurs:

  • anywhere in the world,
  • anywhere, down to the utmost limit of a supply chain, and
  • via an undefined range of representatives, which can include those who work, in whatever capacity, for remote agents, suppliers and others.

It is increasingly important for businesses to be as well informed as possible about the risks they run.

Transparency International publishes a very highly-regarded survey in relation to bribery and corruption around the world. Bribery and corruption being intrinsically difficult to quantify to a reliable degree, TI designs its survey to be as objective as possible.

It does this in two ways:

  • first, by basing its results on the recorded perceptions of the prevalence of bribery, and
  • secondly by using multiple independent and reputable third-party surveys in a way that provides a variable degree of corroboration of individual perceptions.

It then ranks countries on a scale ranging from a theoretical zero (indicating 100% certainty of corruption, according to the perceptions of those surveyed) to 10 (indicating absolute freedom from corruption). Note that the data on which TI draws is based on corruption in the public sector, whereas the Bribery Act has extended the crime to influence on those in the private sector as well. Until data on bribery of private sector concerns and individuals is available, it would seem sensible and reasonable to base business judgments of the risk of bribery on public sector data.

TI has just released its 2010 survey results. See www.transparency.org.

The 2010 edition lists Somalia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Iraq, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Sudan as the seven countries most widely believed to be corrupt. Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore ranked equally least likely, with the UK 20th (down from 17th equal), and the USA 22nd. The listed countries whose corruption perception had deteriorated between 2009 and 2010 are the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Madagascar, Niger and the USA.

Businesses should examine their own operations very carefully in light of all available information, in order to minimise the risk of liability under the new law.