Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > bribery and corruption act – one man’s opinion

bribery and corruption act – one man’s opinion

I must first stress that what follows is a personal opinion; as they might say, don’t try this at the office. I’m not a lawyer; I have contract law qualifications as part of my professional tickets, and I do have the practical experience of having been in the front line for a long time, allied to a spell where I was involved in investigating fraud, fiddling and other dubious practices. So treat what follows with caution, but hopefully it might get you thinking.

Business in the UK has seen hundreds of new pieces of legislation introduced over the last ten years or more (I shall hold my pen on the politics for once) and most of it has been largely incapable of proper implementation. Personally I am a great fan of precedent over statute; let the courts set the tone. The law may be an ass, but the due process that we have, whilst it might be a lottery sometimes, is generally a decent way to go about conducting our affairs. Having a bunch of idiot politicians, however well meaning, setting out all sorts of daft regulations is a recipe for disaster. The only winners are the lawyers (now what was that bloke at No10’s real job? And what about the one with her hand up his back?).

My feeling is that a lot of this regulation is falling out of the same philosophy that brought us the non competitive business in schools; “we don’t have winners, because that mean we have to have losers”. Hard bloody luck – life is about winners and losers,  just ask the Starling that got taken by a Sparrowhawk outside my window this morning. It’s tough out there, but that’s the way that it should be. I know that I can’t win on every deal and I also know that I’ll probably do better as a buyer than as a seller because on any deal there is only one buyer. It is that competition that ensures value for money and healthy commerce, not having to comply with daft rules.

Of course there are fine lines to walk when doing a deal, and the art of getting a deal done is often about steering a course on the edge at times, but regulation is not the answer, especially when it is as ill thought out as the anti bribery nonsense. What is the point of having an offence of failing to prevent a bribe being offered if there is no offense of failing to prevent acceptance?

What we need is what we already have. There are laws to deal with people who stray, so we should just use them and come down like a ton of bricks on anyone caught misbehaving. That is an adequate deterrent if properly applied. Sure you won’t stop everyone, but regulation won’t either.

One of the things I’ve seen managing security over the years is that the more you put in the harder you have to manage it. The more you have the easier it often becomes to breach it because people get complacent. The same applies to many other systems; people trust them, especially if they have paid a lot of money for them. It’s the Emperor’s new clothes syndrome, and that is all that the bribery act will be if it is allowed to come to fruition. We have a new law, so it’s all fine now.

Utter drivel. It will not change anything other than to allow companies to be fined for, allegedly, not having taken proper precaution. Just another stealth tax? Ah, now it suddenly makes sense.


  1. Fiona Thomas
    February 28, 2011 at 7:54 am

    Am I right in thinking that you’re not a fan then? Perhaps you should have asked who you need to slip a brown envelope to in order to make this go away 😉

    • February 28, 2011 at 9:36 am

      Thanks FT. Good to know that I have friends to poke me when I get too pompous! Put a G&T on the slate for when we next catch up.

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