October 22, 2019

Can I provide business hospitality to a public official?


You wish to invite a representative of a state-owned customer to a 2-day marketing event in London, which will include the demonstration of, and training on, your latest goods or services. The company will be covering reasonable expenses, including modest accommodation and the provision of lunch and dinner.  The cost of the event is £200 per head.   You are aware that under the governing code of his organisation the customer has a restriction in place meaning they cannot accept over £100 value of hospitality.

Key Considerations:

  • The provision of bona fide entertainment and hospitality is not prohibited under the UK Bribery Act.
  • However, it is an offence under s.1 (Case 2) of the UK Bribery Act to offer, promise or give someone a financial or other advantage which you know or believe would be improper for them to accept (i.e. they are not entitled to accept it).
  • Entertainment and hospitality may fall within this provision of the Bribery Act.
  • The person making the offer, promise or giving the advantage must know or believe that the recipient is not entitled to receive it.
  • Whilst the per head cost of the event may be considered reasonable and proportionate, and have a legitimate purpose, if you are aware that it exceeds the limits imposed by the customer, there is a risk of you breaching s.1 of the UK Bribery Act by offering the event to the representative.
  • In the event that you made an offer, promise, or gave an advantage in contravention of s.1 (Case 2) of the UK Bribery Act, as well as your own individual liability the company may be strictly liable for this under s. 7 of the UK Bribery Act unless it could establish that the company had “adequate procedures” in place to avoid the risk of the advantage being made.
  • Common issues arise in jurisdictions where local law prohibits public officials from accepting gifts or hospitality at even modest values, which may be acceptable under your company’s general limits on gifts and hospitality.
  • This applies equally in both the public and private sector.