Again, because bribery requests invariably arise in verbal and face-to-face communications, there is the opportunity to consider which employees and employee groups face these risks, and to train them appropriately. Sometimes, a factor in the bribery request is that it comes from an unexpected source or is in relation to an unexpected issue, such as the provision of utility services, which is completely counter to most employees expectations and experiences. As a consequence, they feel vulnerable, both now and for the future.
Additionally, employees can face “concerted bribery”—ongoing bribery intended to wear an employee or employees down by continually disrupting their work, progress, and professional performance. An example of this is the continued ticketing, clamping, and towing of vehicles vital to progress on a new building; a “small” $20 bribe can be huge when the local average weekly wage is just $2.
Dealing with this type of issue requires training to equip employees with effective communication skills and greater confidence, supported by specific responses to bribery demands. This is not an area covered in most ABC training, and employees are rarely, if ever, given the opportunity to role-play such scenarios. Employees returning for refresher training may well be able to inject their own experiences into the scenarios and discussions.
Effective responses to such bribery requests can include:
- Explaining that it is against the law
- Explaining that it is against company policy
- Producing a wallet card stating the law and company policy, ideally in several languages
- Asking to speak with more senior officers
- Involving the company’s legal, international relations, governmental, and related teams
- Involving the embassy in-country, although this may be after an event
- Highlighting the importance of the company’s business to their country’s economy
In combating bribery, companies should ensure that that their processes meet, for example, the UK Serious Fraud Office’s (SFO) Six-Step Approach. The six steps include whether:
- A company has a clear, communicated policy on bribery and facilitation payments
- Written guidance is available to employees when faced with such demands
- The policy is being followed by employees
- Any and all such payments are being recorded
- Action (collective or otherwise) is being taken to inform in-country authorities that such payments are being demanded
- Practical action is being taken by the company to curtail such payment
In acting on their commitment to prevent bribery, companies must also consider how to record and analyze payments made and whether to introduce appropriate technology to make more transactions arms-length. Crucially, companies also need to consider both active and passive bribery situations— essentially, giving and receiving bribes.
Some companies have been innovative in their approach to these challenges. One example includes the provision of prepared carbon duplicate receipt books so that if the official will not provide a receipt for the payment, then the company provides a receipt to the official, and has a record to discharge its responsibilities under the Six-Step Approach.
Briefings and Passwords
Employees should be briefed prior to their travel, and de-briefed on their return. These briefings offer the opportunity to identify any likely bribery issues and their experience in practice.
Some companies employ a password process as part of their employer duty of- care responsibilities, particularly when employees are travelling to high-risk countries. This process can afford a structured opportunity to identify any bribery issues or experiences.