Since 1st July 2011, a piece of law came into effect which recent statistics have suggested many business owners remain worryingly unaware of. That legislation is the Bribery Act 2010, which individuals and businesses across the UK and elsewhere could potentially be greatly affected by. It is widely accepted that the best corporate governance covers the prevention of bribery, and London Registrars (http://www.london-registrars.co.uk) is able to assist organisations in this aim.

A company secretary from London Registrars can advise clients on the policies and procedures that they need to have in place to minimise the risk of bribery, as well as the potentially serious consequences of failing to take the Act seriously. These could include being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), distracting management from the core business.

Investigations could then be initiated by other regulators for the likes of poor corporate governance and internal control failures, potentially leaving the firm with an obligation to report wrongful payments in company accounts. All in all, bribery has well-documented negative effects on business, distorting free markets and causing significant damage to the reputation of many organisations. On a wider scale, it can endanger the economic progress of many countries. With these problems in mind, it is simply best practice for a company to conduct an audit of bribery risks.

It is the aim of the Bribery Act to provide a new legal framework by which bribery can be meaningfully addressed. It has been passed in recognition of the major problems that bribery can cause across the world. To this end, it abolishes the offences of bribery at common law and the statutory offences in the Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act 1889 and the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906, instead compelling organisations to take various new measures to combat the risk of bribery. These include the preparation of formal anti-bribery policies – not something previously done by most employers.

A good anti-bribery policy in accordance with the Bribe and Bribery Act should make clear the company’s “zero tolerance” attitude to bribery, making it clear that employees that breach the policy will face disciplinary action. Businesses should also establish the likely risks of corruption arising by undertaking a thorough corruption risk assessment. Such a policy will need to be paired with effective whistleblowing policies and procedures, so that wrongdoing like bribery can be safely and confidentially reported by workers and employees without the fear of reprisals.

Other anti-bribery advice that can be provided by London Registrars (http://www.london-registrars.co.uk) as part of its highly rated company secretarial services covers such aspects as employment contracts, expenses, gifts and hospitality and even training and recruitment, as is necessary to embed the most effective measures against bribery right across an organisation.