Compliance officer will need to have a tight rein on potential facilitation payments

The long-awaited guidance for the Bribery Act has finally arrived, but big questions still remain over facilitation payments and hospitality.

On facilitation payments, the guidance notes the “problems that commercial organisations face in some parts of the world and in certain sectors”.

Any organisation making a facilitation payment, however small, is technically breaking the Bribery Act. Yet facilitation payments can be crucial for business operations in emerging countries – to help speed up the processing of an exit visa in an emerging country, for example.

Compliance consultant Branko Bjelobaba said: “We know it goes on; it’s just like tax evasion. How many people do you know who don’t declare everything? And they get on well. But who is going to find them?

“Compliance officers in large brokerages will know what goes on, but they’ll now have to monitor all payments that are made to enhance and aid facilitation, including payments to third parties. Somebody will have to have a tight rein on these.”

According to law firm Beachcroft, which issued guidance to Biba members, if adequate controls are in place, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is less likely to prosecute. But it adds: “Large or repeated payments, and/or a failure to follow an organisation’s own policies would be more likely to lead to a prosecution.”

On corporate hospitality, the guidance says companies must be “proportionate and reasonable”. To attract the SFO’s attention, firms would have to consistently display excessive corporate hospitality.