Bribery Act could trap unwary charities, finance directors warned

Charity Finance Directors' Group meeting is told that organisations without effective anti-corruption policies could be at risk

Chandrashekhar Krishnan
Chandrashekhar Krishnan

Charities do not have effective anti-corruption policies in place and risk falling foul of anti-bribery laws that will be introduced next April, delegates to a Charity Finance Directors’ Group meeting have been told.

Chandrashekhar Krishnan, the executive director of Transparency International UK, said research by his organisation found that charities did not have robust procedures about how staff should behave if asked for bribes.

They could be vulnerable to prosecution under the Bribery Act 2010, which will make it an offence not only to offer or take a bribe, but also to fail to prevent a bribe being offered, he said.

The legislation will apply to any UK-registered organisation and cover activities that take place overseas. Charities are concerned that British-based organisations could be prosecuted for the actions of staff based overseas, such as a local fixer giving a sum to a local official in order to resolve a problem.

Tim Boyes-Watson, the director of Mango, which provides finance support to aid organisations, said his organisation would develop a code of conduct and a set of principles that would define what would be reasonable for an NGO to lawfully do under the act.

"We cannot rely on any guidance from the public sector to be comprehensive," he said. "Charities will need to draw up guidance for ourselves."

Bob Humphreys, the finance director of Oxfam, said most charities were already aware of the potential problems. "Charities are at least as aware of the problem as commercial bodies," he said.

Humphreys said Ministry of Justice representatives had told him the law was not intended to apply to charities, particularly in disaster situations, but he would like a more reassurance of that position.

A Ministry of Justice consultation into guidance on the Bribery Act will close on 8 November.

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