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In some circumstances, it can currently take up to 5 months to conduct an initial assessment for some complaints, particularly if they are complex. We are doing everything we can to reduce this time. You can find average timescales for each stage of complaint handling across all types of complaints here.

Anti-Bribery Policy

This resource provides for the Anti-Bribery Policy for all staff members. This policy outlines how the Commissioner aims to implement and enforce effective systems to counter bribery and corruption.

Date policy first adopted: 10/08/2023
Review period: Ad hoc when a change to legislation or ESC process requires it and at least every four years
Date of last review: 10/08/2023
Date of next review: 31/08/2027


1. Purpose and Scope

The Ethical Standards Commissioner (ESC) is committed to ethical standards of conduct, and adopts a zero-tolerance approach to bribery and corruption. The Commissioner is committed to acting professionally, fairly and with integrity in all our business dealings and relationships. This includes implementing and enforcing effective systems to counter bribery and corruption.

This policy applies to all employees regardless of working pattern or nature of employment contract. It also applies to anyone working within the premises of and / or for the Commissioner (for example sub-contractors, consultants, secondees from another organisation or agency staff). The word employee(s) in the context of this policy should be taken to mean all such individuals, unless specifically referred to as being directly employed by ESC.



2. Implementation, monitoring and review of the policy

Overall responsibility for policy implementation, monitoring and review lies with ESC. Everyone covered by the scope of the policy is obliged to adhere to and facilitate implementation of the policy. Appropriate action will be taken to inform all new and existing employees and others covered by the scope of the existence of the policy and their role in adhering to it. The policy will be reviewed at such times as legislation or a change to the ESC policy position requires it and at least every four years. The policy will be made available to the general public.



3. What are bribery and corruption?

Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power or position for private gain.
Bribery is offering, promising, giving or accepting a financial or other advantage intended to coerce someone into acting illegally, unethically or unjustly, or rewarding them for doing so.

An advantage includes:

  • money
  • gifts
  • loans
  • fees
  • hospitality
  • services
  • discounts
  • the award of a contract
  • or anything else of value

It is a criminal offence to offer, promise, give, request or accept a bribe to or from third parties, including:

  • actual and potential complainers, respondents or witnesses
  • suppliers and consultants
  • business contacts
  • agents
  • advisers
  • government and public bodies, including their advisors, representatives and officials,
    politicians and political parties.

Employees found guilty of corruption or bribery can be punished with up to 10 years' imprisonment and/or a fine. As an employer, the ESC can face an unlimited fine and damage to our reputation if we fail to prevent bribery



4. Unacceptable behaviour

It is unacceptable for an employee (or someone on their behalf) to:

  1. give, promise to give, or offer a payment, gift or hospitality with the expectation or hope of gaining a business advantage, or to reward a business advantage already given
  2. give or accept a gift or hospitality during any commercial negotiations or tender process if this could be perceived as intended, or likely to influence the outcome
  3. accept a payment, gift or hospitality from a third party that the individual knows, or suspect is offered with the expectation that it will provide a business advantage for them or anyone else in return
  4. accept hospitality from a third party that is unduly lavish or extravagant under the circumstances
  5. offer or accept a gift to or from government officials or representatives, politicians or political parties in breach of this policy
  6. threaten or retaliate against another employee who has refused to commit a bribery offence or who has raised concerns under this policy
  7. engage in any other activity that might lead to a breach of this policy.



5. Facilitation payments and kickbacks

The ESC does not make and will not accept facilitation payments or kickbacks of any kind.

What are facilitation payments?

Also known as 'back-handers' or 'grease payments', facilitation payments are typically small, unofficial payments made to secure or speed up a routine or necessary action (for example, by a government official). They are not common in the UK but are common in some other jurisdictions.


What are kickbacks?

Kickbacks are typically payments made in return for a business favour or advantage.

Employees must avoid any activity that might lead to a facilitation payment or kickback being made or accepted by the ESC or on our behalf, or that might suggest that such a payment will be made or accepted. If someone is asked to make a payment on ESC’s behalf, they should always be mindful of what the payment is for and whether the amount requested is proportionate to the goods or services provided. They should always ask for a receipt which details the reason for the payment.



6. Gifts, hospitality and expenses

This policy allows reasonable and appropriate hospitality or entertainment given to, or received from third parties for the purposes of:

  • establishing or maintaining good business relationships
  • improving or maintaining our image or reputation.

The giving and accepting of gifts are allowed in certain circumstances.

  1. The gift is not made with the intention of obtaining or retaining business, favours or benefits, or rewarding them.
  2. The gift is given in the ESC's name, not in the individual's name.
  3. The gift is appropriate in the circumstances, taking account of the reason for the gift, its timing and its value.
  4. The gift is given openly rather than secretly.
  5. The gift complies with applicable laws.

Promotional gifts of low value such as branded stationery to or from existing customers, suppliers and business partners is usually acceptable.

Reimbursing a third party's expenses or accepting an offer to reimburse ESC expenses (for example, the costs of attending a business meeting) would not usually amount to bribery.

However, a payment in excess of genuine and reasonable business expenses (such as the cost of an extended hotel stay) is not acceptable.

More information about the acceptance and reporting of gifts and hospitality is available under Section 6 of our Declaration of Interests Form.

The ESC appreciates that practice varies between countries and regions and what may be normal and acceptable in one region may not be in another. The test to be applied is whether in all the circumstances the gift, hospitality or payment is reasonable and justifiable. The intention behind it should always be considered.



7. Donations

The ESC does not make contributions to political parties. We may assist charitable organisations in a range of ways that are legal and ethical. No donation must be offered or made without the prior approval of the Commissioner. Staff are not prevented from making charitable donations in a private capacity.



8. Record Keeping

The ESC must keep detailed financial records, and have appropriate internal controls in place to evidence the business reason for making payments to third parties.

Employees must submit all expenses claims relating to hospitality, gifts or payments to third parties in accordance with our expenses policy and record the reason for expenditure.

All accounts, invoices and other records relating to dealings with third parties – including suppliers and customers – should be completely accurate and transparent.



9. Our Employees' Responsibilities

  • Employees must ensure they read, understand and comply with this policy.
  • Employees are required to avoid any activity that might lead to or suggest a breach of this policy. The prevention, detection and reporting of bribery and other forms of corruption are the responsibility of all those working for the ESC.
  • Employees should be aware of the potential impact of conflicts of interest should they arise. More information about conflicts of interests is available in the Code of Conduct and our Declaration of Interests Form.
  • Employees must notify their line manager or the Head of Corporate Services as soon as possible if they believe or suspect that a conflict with this policy has occurred, or may occur in the future.



10. Raising a Concern

Employees are encouraged to raise concerns about any issue or suspicion of bribery or corruption as early as possible.

Employees should report any such suspicions to their line manager in the first instance. Concerns about a line manager should be reported to the Head of Corporate Services (HCS). Concerns about the HCS should be reported to another member of the Senior Management Team. The Whistleblowing Policy gives direction for employees on reporting matters which may involve the Commissioner.

If they are offered a bribe or asked to make one, or if they suspect that any bribery, corruption or other breach of this policy has taken or may take place, they must notify their line manager or the Head of Corporate Services as soon as possible.

Bribery and corruption concerns will be handled in line with the procedures for managing reports of fraud. Further details are available in the Anti-Fraud Policy and Fraud Response Plan.



11. Protection

Employees who refuse to accept or offer a bribe, or who raise concerns or report another's wrongdoing, are sometimes worried about possible repercussions. The ESC encourages openness and will support anyone who raises genuine concerns in good faith under this policy, even if they turn out to be mistaken.

The ESC is committed to ensuring that nobody suffers detrimental treatment as a result of refusing to take part in bribery or corruption, or because of reporting their suspicion of an actual or potential offence.



12. Training and Communication

Training on this policy forms part of the induction process for all employees of the ESC, and training will be provided as necessary.

Our zero-tolerance approach to bribery and corruption is communicated to all suppliers, contractors and business partners at the outset of our business relationship with them, and as appropriate thereafter.



13. Breaches of this policy

Any employee who breaches this policy could face disciplinary action, which could result in dismissal for misconduct or gross misconduct.

We may terminate our relationship with other individuals and organisations working on our behalf if they breach this policy.