The Great Debate UK

Companies would be foolish to ignore the Bribery Act

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By Philip Urofsky and Josanne Rickard. The opinions expressed are their own.

The new Bribery Act, which comes into force on July 1, exposes British companies and other companies doing business in the UK to prosecution under its broad and somewhat undefined provisions. The risks it presents, although perhaps overblown by some commentators and practitioners, are nevertheless significant.

Companies would be foolish to ignore the Act in the hope that they will not be caught or, if caught, not prosecuted. On the contrary, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which has just escaped abolition, and other parts of the UK government, will be under great pressure to demonstrate that the Act is effective and enforceable.

However, it is in the interest of both the government and companies to seek efficient ways to ensure that such prosecutions are resolved quickly and with clear and certain consequences. To that end, the SFO and companies should continue the experiment of negotiating pre-charge alternative dispositions – known in the U.S. as ‘deferred prosecution agreements’ – which will be a less expensive option for the budget-constrained SFO and a more predictable process for companies.

The SFO has already done this – most notably when dealing with Balfour Beatty in 2008. The construction company was suspected of bribery in relation to a £75m joint venture project to build a prestige library in Alexandria, Egypt. Under investigation by the SFO, Balfour Beatty agreed to admit ‘payment irregularities’ and accept a penalty of £2.25m, in exchange for no charges being brought.

from Global News Journal:

Croatia must read European Union signals carefully

The European Commission told Croatia this week that its negotiations to join the European Union have reached their "final" stage. Sounds promising, considering how reluctant many EU governments are to admit any new members at a time when the bloc is coping with financial difficulties.

But there was another, more subtle message in the text of the Commission's annual progress report on EU hopefuls. And it read quite  differently.

from Afghan Journal:

Afghan election: Industrial-scale corruption, or real hope?

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What is a worse prospect for an Afghanistan election – election fraud on an industrial scale or a quiet campaign of intimidation that keeps voters away from the polls, or forces them to vote for the most powerful candidate?
That seems to be the choice facing many Afghan voters ahead of the Sept. 18 parliamentary election, particularly those in the Pashtun tribal belt in the south and east where so much of the fraud that marred last year’s presidential ballot was committed.

Afghan voters can be excused for feeling ballot fatigue. The September vote will be their fourth in six years.
There have been some improvements but the key questions of poor governance, corruption and security remain unanswered despite the number of ballots they have cast. To turn out again will be a real test of their commitment to democracy, a right taken for granted by many in the West and grumbled about when they are asked to exercise it. It would hardly be surprising, given the risks, if many decided not to vote.

from UK News:

Echoes of Italy’s Clean Hands revolution

The shockwaves reverberating through Westminster as the MPs' expenses scandal unfolds have been compared with the "Clean Hands" bribery scandal that effectively demolished Italy's post-war political establishment in the space of a couple of years in the early 1990s.

If things are going to get that bad, the guilty politicians are going to have an uncomfortable time.

from Africa News blog:

Time to stop aid for Africa? An argument against

Earlier this month, Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo argued that Africa needs Western countries to cut long term aid that has brought dependency, distorted economies and fuelled bureaucracy and corruption. The comments on the blog posting suggested that many readers agreed. In a response, Savio Carvalho, Uganda country director for aid agency Oxfam GB, says that aid can help the continent escape poverty - if done in the right way:

In early January, I travelled to war-ravaged northern Uganda to a dusty village in Pobura and Kal parish in Kitgum District. We were there to see the completion of a 16km dirt road constructed by the community with support from Oxfam under an EU-funded programme.

from Africa News blog:

Time to stop aid for Africa?

Far from being all bad news for Africa, the global financial crisis is a chance to break a dependence on development aid that has kept it in poverty, argues Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo, who has just published a new book “Dead Aid”.

Moyo’s book, her first, comes out at a time when Western campaigners, financial institutions and some African governments have been warning of the danger posed to Africa by the crisis and calling for more money from developed countries as a result. The former World Bank and Goldman Sachs economist spoke to Reuters in London.

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