The Financial Times has reported that a review of the UK Bribery Act is set to be announced next month as the UK government seeks to reduce the cost of compliance for small- and medium-sized businesses.
The main focus of the review will apparently be facilitation payments. These are small payments given to officials to permit or speed up a service – for example, at a border crossing – and are illegal under the UK Bribery Act. The legislation has been met with uncertainty from businesses that operate in jurisdictions where such payments are a common occurrence.
It is understood that the review will form part of the government’s attempt to reduce red tape for small- and medium-sized businesses generally. However, the proposals stand in stark contrast to the government’s promise to clamp down on bribery offences, and the Serious Fraud Office’s statements that facilitation payments are to be regarded as bribes. It will therefore be interesting to see the extent of any proposals. So far, the Serious Fraud Office has declined to comment beyond stating that it is currently undertaking seven UK Bribery Act investigations.