Bribery legislation 'leaves grey areas for charities'

Oxfam finance director Bob Humphreys calls for clearer sector guidance for charities about the Bribery Act

Charities call for clear guidance about payments
Charities call for clear guidance about payments

Charities are still unsure whether they are liable for prosecution under sections of the Bribery Act, charity representatives have told a consultation by the Treasury.

The act creates four new offences, one of which relates to businesses that fail to take sufficient steps to prevent bribery involving their employees or agents. But it remains unclear whether the definition of business used in the act covers charities, according to Bob Humphreys, finance director of Oxfam, which responded to the consultation that closed on 8 November.

"If you read the letter of the act, humanitarian activities aren't covered," he told Third Sector. "But charities have many activities that could be considered business activities. We need some clear sector guidance in order to make sure charities know what they need to do to address the problem."

Charities are also worried they could be liable for prosecution if they pay bribes in emergency situations, said Tim Boyes-Watson, director of Mango, which provides finance support to aid organisations and has responded to the consultation.

"There's a grey area here about facilitation payments, such as when you want to get vehicles or food through customs," he said.

Humphreys said Oxfam would support the payment of bribes only when staff felt they were in physical danger. "We shouldn't get too hung up on whether we're covered or not," he said. "We should all be doing what we can to prevent the payment of bribes in any case."

Boyes-Watson said: "We would like to see collective action by all agencies to discuss this."

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