Expense management becomes mission critical with the UK Bribery Act

The Ministry of Justice has now released the final guidance on the UK Bribery Act, describing how companies will soon be liable for prosecution if employees are found to have engaged in bribery anywhere in the world.

While the Government has stressed that the legislation will not penalise those businesses that take a common sense approach to spending, the need to demonstrate reasonable and proportionate behaviour leads to several new challenges, making expense management mission critical for business.

The line between ‘appropriate’ and ‘excessive’ expenditure on a prospect or client is blurred at the best of times, but the final guidance on the Bribery Act has turned the spotlight on the need for even greater transparency into how businesses spend money, especially in the traditional minefield of corporate hospitality.

With the onus now on CFOs to ensure that expenses are both reasonable and validated, the boundaries of what is acceptable must be clearly defined – particularly when it comes to travel and entertainment spend. The key is to put processes in place to enforce policies and make it easy for employees to demonstrate that an expense incurred is not a bribe.

However, it can be very difficult for organisations to keep track of and validate the payments made by employees while they’re out entertaining clients. To overcome this problem, employees must be able to easily demonstrate compliance by logging their expenses as they accrue. This would significantly reduce the risk of error and enable CFOs to quickly identify expenses as and when legislators get heavy-handed.

The Bribery Act will undoubtedly spur businesses to consider the challenges surrounding compliance, and to put solutions in place to better manage even the most disparate expenses incurred by employees. One such solution is to find a way of integrating all expenses onto a single platform to offer CFOs complete visibility of their total corporate spend – no matter where costs occur or how they are submitted.

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Robert Kirby has more than 20 years experience in the expense management and payments industry, and has led business operations from three different continents. Prior to co-founding Spendvision in 2001, Robert held senior executive positions with Globeset, where he was initially based in Austin, Texas as VP responsible for B2B transaction services. Later he moved to Australia to become VP and general manager of the APAC and Japan business unit. Prior to Globeset, Robert held senior management positions at Telstra and led the development and implementation of eCommerce and payments products and services. Robert has held a position on the Board of the Australian Payments System Council – a body charged with advising the Australian Treasurer on the efficiency of the Australian payments system. He is also a member of the Commercial Payments International advisory board.