According to EY’s 2015 Europe, Middle East, India and Africa (EMEIA) Fraud Survey, while 46% of UK businesses said regulation in their sector had increased in the past two years, only 15% reported it having a positive impact on ethical standards in their company.
Less than a third (28%) described their own firm’s ethical standards as “very good”, but this beats the EMEIA average of 26%.
While the survey found most companies to be implementing policies and procedures around fraud and bribery, there appears to be a gap between policy and action. For example, 60% said their organisation has an anti-bribery or anti-corruption policy and code of conduct, but only a quarter (25%) stated action had been taken against staff for breaches.
On whistleblowing, 79% reported that their company has a whistleblowing hotline, but only 28% said management always follows up on whistleblowing reports. This is less than the EMEIA average of 32%.
More encouragingly, it appears UK workers have a greater awareness of the bribery act than in 2013. In 2013, 19% said that offering personal gifts would be justified to help their business survive. This year only 5% agreed with that statement.
Overall 27% of UK respondents believe bribery and corruption is widespread. This is down from 37% in 2013 and much lower than the EMEIA average of 51%.
EY partner and head of fraud investigation and disputes John Smart said policies are “just one lever” in managing fraud, bribery and corruption risks.
“Changing culture and behaviour is a difficult and long-term process,” he said. “It appears that UK employees have heard it all before on anti-bribery and anti-corruption issues and are lacking faith in senior management to clean up.”
He added: “In order to meet the corporate ethics challenge, boards will need to supplement their anti-fraud, bribery and corruption policies with consistent messaging from the top, together with the right enforcement, rewards for whistleblowers and highlighting role models.”