The government is reported to be looking at changing the Bribery Act. No surprise there, because from the first seminars I attended following its introduction it was obvious to me that it was unworkable. So, what qualifies me to write about bribery? Well, I worked at a senior level in the defence industry. Next question.
Among my objections to existing bribery laws is the sheer hypocrisy. We all now that governments turn a blind eye when it suits them. If I asked every British reader to think of a current example of Her Majesty’s government’s involvement in large scale overseas bribery then I am absolutely certain we would all call to mind the same country, the same company and the same contract. And it’s not just governments. On a smaller scale I recall events in a large US (and so much for the famous Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) building supplies company which both then and now constantly blows its own trumpet about it’s high environmental credentials and yet regularly supplied payments in kind to the purchasing managers of large customers. Mind you, presumably as some sort of sop to their conscience, they often gave substandard goods that couldn’t be sold elsewhere to the individuals involved.
My own personal favourite bribery story was in relation to a mooted overseas infrastructure project. Our sales director was very bullish and, given our appalling track record of winning orders, I enquired as to why he should feel this way. He explained that it was because our local agent had bribed an official within the appropriate ministry and we knew what was in each of the sealed envelopes which were to be opened. This official had confirmed that we had submitted the lowest bid. Unfortunately, although this did turn out to be true, our man on the inside had not bothered, or been paid enough, to tell us that the ultimate adjudicator – a member of the local royal family – controlled a company which was the agent for one of our competitors. Our bid was judged non-compliant and the contract awarded to them.