Sunday, 27 September 2009

Bribery or Business?

I like to think of myself as healthily skeptical and not at all naive: and for a fleeting moment I believed hoped that the practice of bribing for business had pretty much died out, laid to rest in these more enlightened times. Buying benefits for your business is never right, is it?

Do you hear that loud buzzer?  That means I'm wrong...

Many years ago I made the mistake of 'blowing the whistle' - I contacted the board of directors of a large software company whose IT Director, during negotiations, asked me directly for a substantial amount of money to ensure my company won a lucrative hardware and network supply contract.  The end result; he stayed in position with a warning on his personnel record, my company lost its largest client, permanently - oh yeah and I lost my job.  That was the 1980s, and bribery for business was commonplace: the public and private sectors equally, as I learned very quickly - and so it continues to this day...

Labour has finally broken its 1997 bogey on prosecuting firms for bribery this week; naming and shaming those involved in a string of international bribes paid by British bridge builder Mabey & Johnson.  The company have been ordered to pay fines and reperations of £6.5million for crimes that included a breach of UN sanctions by illegally paying Saddam Hussein (remember him?) £363,000.  Congratulations to the SFO then?

Fired up by this success the SFO have delivered an ultimatum to BAE, Britain's largest arms dealer, to plea bargain over the long running corruption allegations.  It turns out that BAE use lube regularly and in most of their foreign deals, including -

South Africa, Tanzania, Romania, Chile, the Czech Republic, Qatar, Bosnia, Nigeria, Zambia, Costa Rica and Egypt

...and let's not forget the dropped investigation into the Saudi Arabian deals

So it's commonplace - Twas ever thus...

But it's not as if these businesses are stealing the money from anybody, Cost of Sale is reflected in their Profit and Loss - and tax returns.  Let me assure you a bare-faced demand for 'lubrication' isn't easy to ignore, and always shocking - you accept it reluctantly; it doesn't benefit you financially, but commercially it is often the only way to close a deal - the twisted psychology of a buyer who feels entitled to a share of the profit is a pretty strong objection to overcome, I know I've been there.

The current Government, both directly and indirectly in it's pursuit of these businesses is displaying an astounding degree of hypocrisy, whilst deftly failing to demonstrate any understanding of the reality of doing business abroad, do they really believe US and European companies aren't doing the same?

Q: Hypocrisy?
A: Look at the billions paid by Labour government and councils in bribes in the UK, there are too many to list here but some good examples are; the Trade Union Modernisation fund, false charities that pander to their health agenda, single issue groups, unaccountable NDPBs and Public Private companies that support their policy initiatives and deliver government services, and of course the large payments made to private companies just to bid for public contracts. EDIT - And what are pre-bid tender payments, if not bribes?

Finally, just for a little spice, let's throw politician's expenses into that mix, who is corrupt?

So British companies, the few that are left, take heed - this government do not want you to compete on a par with your competitors abroad; you may find yourself considerably poorer and in the big house if you have the audacity to close that lucrative deal.


  1. As somebody who is swatting off Mandelson's lawyers, I can assure you that this crowd have not got a clue to the way business is conducted across the world. It is warfare without guns, or in BAE Systems case with Guns.

    You do not fight wars by having a 'rule book' the Germans don't do it re Opel and Frau Merkel, the French certainly don't do it, and the Americans certainly don't.

    Labour have this ideal that is private business is bad very bad, and should be prosecuted at every turn, whereas the Public Sector is Good Very Good, never indulges in bribery and corruption, plus it has the added benefit that nobody can prosecute the Government.

    I cannot think of one Labour politician who has worked in private business let alone overseas.

  2. Thanks for the comment - depressing hypocrisy Guthrum, I actually cannot see how these twits sleep at night - the inconsistency of their approach must be obvious to them, even the most stupid, of them?

    I hate to say it, but Blair was the only one that seemed to have an inkling of what British MANUFACTURING has to do to compete in their much vaunted global markets...