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?
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.