A recent survey conducted by Ernst & Young has revealed that 72% of UK middle managers have never heard of the Bribery Act.  Of the remaining 28%, only 55% felt they had received adequate training on the Act.  In other words, 72% of the people responsible for the day to day operations of UK companies and those on the front line of policy implementation are completely in the dark about the Bribery Act.

The results of the survey, which polled 1,000 middle managers, is striking given the Bribery Act has been in force for nearly a year.  John Smart, partner at Ernst & Young, has speculated that the lack of any reported cases may have lulled organisations into a false sense of security, with some either underestimating their exposure to bribery risks, failing to see any urgency in ensuring their organisations are compliant or not feeling sufficiently educated to offer their staff guidance.

Many organisations see compliance with the Bribery Act as yet another drain on already stretched compliance resources.  But the cost of doing nothing could be far greater.  Having in place adequate anti-corruption procedures is the only defence against prosecution under section 7 of the Act.  It is also the benchmark expected by an increasing number of compliant organisations when looking to enter into or renew business relationships with third parties. 

There is no time like the present to start educating yourself and your team on the Bribery Act and its implications.  The Ministry of Justice Quick Start Guide and Guidance are good resources for those who are looking at the Act for the first time.  Once you understand how the Act works and what corruption risks you need to avoid, your next step is to look at your organisation’s operations and consider the risks you face (e.g. operations in high risk jurisdictions).  If you have significant budget constraints, your initial compliance efforts should be directed towards high risk areas of your business. 

For those that have programmes up and running, it is important to remember that these need to be monitored and reviewed.  It is not sufficient to put in place policies, educate senior management and then just hope the message trickles down through the organisation.  You need people to spread the word.  To this end, middle managers have the potential to be your best town criers…but they need to know the message.