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Taking Bribes October 18, 2010

Posted by Mark Hillary in Government, IT Services, Outsourcing.
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Anyone doing business around the world will know about bribes. I myself have been offered several and – thankfully for my own conscience – I have always turned them down. But I’ve had to give bribes here and there to get myself out of various scrapes, such as my driver in Morocco paying off a policeman to avoid a speeding ticket, or the taxi driver in India who decided I was not going to be allowed out of my taxi until I paid a ridiculous fare.

But these are just travel experiences, small beer compared to genuine corporate bribes.

The serious fraud office in the UK is about to crack down on multinational firms offering bribes, the greasing of the wheels that used to be accepted just as how you had to “do” business in places where it is just accepted.The new Bribery Act replaces the patchwork of British laws that previously cover bribes. It will cover the corporate offence of making or receiving a bribe and though it has been delayed, it looks like it will be law by April 2011. That means companies all over the UK will need to look again at anti-corruption measures – if they have any measures documented in the first place.

But the question I would ask is, what is a bribe? I know that when I meet people from the BBC, they always pay for their own coffee or lunch. They won’t accept any free trips overseas for any reason. This helps them to retain a high degree of impartiality.But each summer, I’m offered tickets to the cricket and other big sporting events by people from the IT industry. Recently the trend has turned more to rock concerts as well – which suits me. And there is a natural tendency to look more favourably on a company that has bought you a nice box for a test match, but I personally look on it as improving the relationship – giving time to building ideas together – but not buying access.

I’d never write an article in the press about a firm or recommend them just because they bought me some sports tickets.Is the SFO going to explore this kind of entertainment, which is commonly used by people in IT, or is it just higher-level fraud that will keep them active?

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We want a digital economy, but is the digital economy act working? April 19, 2010

Posted by Mark Hillary in Government, IT Services.
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Further to my last blog here, how things have changed in such a short space of time. On the day the Digital Economy bill was due for further debate in parliament, the general election was called. When an election is called, the parliament will only sit for a few more days in what is called the ‘wash-up’ period.

This is really just a few days of work tying up any legislative loose ends before everyone gets down to the business of election campaigning. It means that any new bills due for discussion can either be unceremoniously dropped, or pushed through parliament extremely quickly without extensive debate. The Digital Economy bill was pushed through with less than two hours of discussion. It’s now about to be better known as the Digital Economy Act 2010.

This is a real shame. It’s an act that could determine the digital future of the nation and it deserves more than this. There are many admirable parts of this act, such as the intention to deliver universal broadband Internet across the UK, but there is a lot that needed more debate before the act ended up on the statue book.

The most controversial part of the same act was around file sharing, in particular the assumption that the owner of the Internet connection is responsible for any illegal activity. There really needed to be more discussion and debate on this critical point. The UK is awash with free wifi connections at pubs, cafes, and train stations. Are those connection owners really going to accept liability if the connection users break the law, or will we see a mass switch-off as public Internet becomes impossible to locate due to a fear of this new act?

Because of this new act, the government is now able to block websites, cut off users, and fine connection owners for activity they may not have been responsible for. Surely this act needs further debate and refinement?