Press Release / July 1, 2011

Global Witness welcomes implementation of the Bribery Act, but warns political will is needed for it to succeed

Global Witness welcomes today’s implementation of the UK Bribery Act which, if enforced correctly, will help curb corruption and end poverty around the world. But the group warns that the government will need to provide the necessary resources to effectively enforce the act if its anti-corruption credentials are to be taken seriously.

The Bribery Act makes it an offence for any company or individual with strong links to the UK to pay bribes to foreign public officials. In the case of companies, the Act makes them liable if they fail to prevent bribes paid on their behalf.

“Bribery is not a victimless crime, nor an inevitable cost of doing business abroad,” said George Boden, a campaigner at Global Witness. “Corruption has devastating impacts on the worlds poorest as it diverts huge sums of money away from investment in schools, hospitals and other basic social services and into useless overpriced projects, as well as providing funds to subvert elections and keep the wrong people in power,” Boden continued.  

The Bribery Act could help tackle poverty around the world by stemming corruption and instability which undermines development. It could also help create a fair and level playing field for honest UK companies which do not pay bribes. This will only happen, however, if the government now provides adequate resources for its enforcement so that it provides a sufficient deterrent to companies.

The Act has been roundly criticised by business groups on the grounds that companies may accidently find themselves subject to prosecution for minor infringements such as lavish hospitality for potential clients. Global Witness rejects these assertions. The Bribery Act is fit for purpose having undergone extensive consultation with all relevant stakeholders, and passed through Parliament with cross party support. The Ministry of Justice only estimates an additional 1.3 prosecutions a year. Companies which do not pay bribes have nothing to fear.

Intensive pressure by business led to two delays in the publication of, and substantial amendments to, the government’s guidance for companies on compliance with the Act, raising serious concerns about the political will to effectively enforce the Act.

“After long delays, we welcome the Act’s introduction as a crucial step forward in the fight against corruption and poverty. However, an Act is only as good as its enforcement. It is now a matter of the government’s commitment and resources as to how effective it will be in practice,” said Boden.


Contact: George Boden on +44 (0)207 492 5899 or +44 (0)7808 767 134; Andrea Pattison on +44 (0)7703 671 308, [email protected].

Notes to editors:

  1. The Bribery Act comes into force on the 1st of July.
  2. Companies will be found liable under the Act if they fail to prevent bribery on their behalf, unless they can prove that they have put in place ‘adequate procedures’ to prevent bribery. Guidance for companies is laid out in the ‘Guidance about commercial organisations preventing bribery’.
  3. Global Witness is part of the Bond Corruption Group of development and anti-corruption groups which have followed the UK Bribery Act closely since draft stage. The group submitted evidence to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the parliamentary committee, and met with the Bribery Bill Team at the MoJ several times.