Bribery is the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of something of value for the purpose of influencing the action of an official in the discharge of his or her public or legal duties. The expectation of a particular voluntary action in return is what makes the difference between a bribe and a private demonstration of goodwill. To offer or provide payment in order to persuade someone with a responsibility to betray that responsibility is known as seeking Undue Influence over that person’s actions. When someone with power seeks payment in exchange for certain actions, that person is said to be peddling influence. Regardless of who initiates the deal, either
party to an act of bribery can be found guilty of the crime independently of the other.
A bribe can consist of immediate cash or of personal favors, a promise of later payment, or anything else the recipient views as valuable. No written agreement is necessary to prove the crime of bribery, but usually a prosecutor must show corrupt intent. Bribery charges may involve public officials or private individuals. In the world of professional sports, for example, one boxer might offer another a payoff to “throw” (deliberately lose) an important fight. In the corporate arena, a company could bribe employees
of a rival company for recruitment services or other actions at odds with their employer’s interests. Even when public officials are involved, a bribe does not need to be harmful to the public interest in order to be illegal.
When a public official accepts a bribe, he or she creates a conflict of interest. That is, the official cannot accommodate the interests of another party without compromising the responsibilities of her or his position. There is not always consensus over what counts as a bribe. For instance, in many states and at the federal level, certain gifts and campaign contributions are not considered bribes and do not draw prosecution unless they can be linked to evidence of undue influence. In this regard, negative public perception of private contributions to elected officials as payola has caused most states to establish legislative ethics committees to review the public-private relationships of house and senate members.
Nature of a bribe – A bribe may be a cash payment, or it may be a non-cash advantage (such as the promise of a future contract, or a holiday). The dishonest activity includes any dishonest act or omission. It may be an act or omission done by someone in relation to his employer‘s or principal‘s business. For example, a government officer acting on behalf of a government department may, if offered a bribe, dishonestly award a contract.
Institutional bribery refers to a situation where a bribe may be paid or received with the full approval of the organization which is the employer of the individual paying or receiving the bribe. This may occur, for example, where a contracting company authorizes its commercial director to pay a bribe to win a tender. Personal bribery refers to a situation where a bribe may be paid or received by a representative of an organization without the approval of that organization. This may occur, for example, where a government officer receives a bribe to award a contract, where the government department in question would not approve the bribe.
Supply-side bribery refers to those persons or companies who are responsible for offering or paying bribes. Demand-side bribery refers to those persons or companies who are responsible for demanding or receiving bribes. Gifts, hospitality, charitable donations and other benefits can amount to bribery if they are given or received with the intention that they will induce someone to act dishonestly.
A “facilitation payment” is the term often used in relation to payments made to officials so as to obtain or expedite services to which the payer is entitled (for example, the obtaining of contract payments which are due, import or work permits, or installation of telephone lines). The amounts which are paid are often quite small, yet the consequences of not paying can be serious. (For example, a contractor may not receive a large part of contract payments due, or a delay in issuing an import permit could delay a project, which could increase the contractor‘s costs and cause the contractor to have to pay liquidated damages to the project owner for delay.) In practice, the following distinction is sometimes made between bribes and facilitation payments. A bribe is regarded as being a payment made to someone to act in a way in which he should not act (for example, by wrongly awarding a contract to the bribing party, or wrongly releasing a party from a legal obligation) whereas a facilitation payment is regarded as being a payment
(other than the fee required by law) made to a person to do something which he should already be doing (for example, issuing a visa or customs clearance that is properly due). However, although there may be this distinction, most countries treat the payment and receipt of facilitation payments as a form of bribery.
Examples of bribery.
Bribery in relation to procurement of infrastructure project can occur in numerous ways. For example:
- A project owner may bribe a government official in order to obtain planning permission for a project.
- A bidder may bribe the project owner‘s designer to design a project in a manner which improperly favors that bidder over other bidders.
- A bidder may pay a bribe to the project owner‘s representative to win the contract.
- A contractor may pay a bribe to the project owner‘s representative to have defective or non-existent work approved.
- The project owner may pay a bribe to the project engineer in return for the engineer refraining from issuing a payment certificate or an extension of time to a contractor.
- If the parties are in dispute in relation to the construction of the project, one party may bribe a witness, expert, arbitrator or judge in order to give false evidence, or to give a favourable opinion or verdict.
- A maintenance contractor may pay a bribe to a representative of the project owner in return for being awarded a contract to maintain the project during its operation.