Individuals who reasonably suspect the occurrence of bribery in the context of the University’s activities should report their concerns as soon as possible to the Director of Finance, the Registrar or to firstname.lastname@example.org, providing a brief description of the alleged irregularity, and any evidence that supports the allegations or irregularity and identifies the individual or individuals responsible. Any report will be treated as a disclosure under the University’s Public Interest Disclosure (whistle-blowing) Code of Practice and it will, therefore, be brought to the attention of the Registrar who will decide on the procedure to be adopted and determine whether there is a case to answer.
Subjecting people who have reported reasonably-held concerns or suspicions to any detriment will be regarded as a disciplinary issue, as will abuse of process by making malicious allegations.
Bribery and Fraud Review Group
Where the Registrar has determined that there is a case to answer, the matter will be taken forward under this Policy. It will be considered by a Bribery and Fraud Review Group (‘BFRG’) comprising:
- the Registrar;
- the Director of Finance;
- the Director of Legal Services and General Counsel; and
- the Internal Auditor.
With the agreement of all other members of the Group, the officers named may send nominated delegates on those occasions when they are unavailable in person.
The BFRG may call upon the advice of any other person with specialist, technical or professional knowledge that may be relevant to the particular case under consideration. If at any point there is a suspicion that the conduct complained of includes unlawful conduct, the BFRG will take immediate steps to secure appropriate professional advice as to the steps required before proceeding further.
The BFRG will decide on such further steps as are necessary including:
- investigating the concerns;
- notifying the police and other relevant authorities;
- establishing and securing evidence necessary for criminal and disciplinary action;
- ensuring that appropriate action is taken against those responsible; and
- communicating with internal personnel and outside organisations with a need to know, in particular considering:
- whether there are issues that should be referred to the appropriate funding body under the terms of any grant to which the allegations relate;
- whether the incident should be reported to HEFCE under the terms of the Memorandum of Assurance and Accountability; and
- whether the matter should be reported to HMRC;
and will take steps to ensure that the relevant actions are undertaken as soon as is reasonably practicable.
In any case where immediate action is required, the Registrar or Director of Finance may take the steps he or she deems necessary. Where such action is taken, the Registrar or Director of Finance as appropriate shall report his or her actions and reasoning to the BFRG as soon as possible thereafter.
In any case where a member of the BFRG is the subject of an investigation under the Policy, the Vice-Chancellor or, if he or she is the subject of complaint, the Chancellor will appoint an alternate or alternates to fulfil the role or roles specified under the Policy.
Investigations will normally be carried out by the Internal Auditor or an alternative agreed by the BFRG, taking account of appropriate professional practice, and any relevant guidance issued from time to time by HEFCE, the Charity Commission or any other relevant regulatory body. The investigator will keep the BFRG informed as to the progress of the investigation and will complete the investigation as soon as reasonably possible.
In cases which involve or may involve students, the Proctors will be informed at the outset of the investigation. If a student is the subject of an allegation of bribery, this will be dealt with by the Proctors under the disciplinary procedures applicable to students.
Staff involvement and suspension
Where an allegation of bribery concerns a member of staff, Personnel Services must be consulted.
Subject to the advice of Personnel Services, any member of staff suspected of bribery may be suspended (without deduction of pay) pending a full investigation. No one person, acting on his or her own volition, may move to suspend a member of staff in such circumstances. The suspension of a member of staff does not constitute a finding of misconduct against him or her. Any staff suspended as a result of a suspected bribery will be informed of the reason for the suspension.
Individuals suspended for suspected bribery, and individuals suspended to enable a proper investigation to be carried out, will normally be required to leave University premises immediately and will be denied access to the University’s IT facilities. During the period of any suspension they will not be permitted to return to the premises, to make contact with staff or witnesses, or to act on behalf of the University, unless given express permission to do so by the relevant University authorities. Any infringement of this requirement may be treated as a disciplinary offence.
All persons involved with the investigation must treat the information in strict confidence. Where necessary, information will be transmitted in confidence to relevant regulatory bodies. An unwarranted breach of confidence may be the subject of disciplinary action.
In all cases where the police are involved, the University reserves the right, where it would be reasonable to do so, to proceed with its own disciplinary procedures and/or with civil proceedings.
If the Registrar deems that there is a case to answer, the BFRG will notify the Vice-Chancellor and the Chair of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee that a matter has been reported and will be investigated under this Policy; and the BFRG will provide further and confidential interim reports as are deemed necessary. Such reports may be oral or written.
Notifying HEFCE of serious incidents
The University will notify HEFCE of any serious incidents of bribery as required by the terms of HEFCE’s Memorandum of Assurance and Accountability.
The investigator will prepare a report of their investigation for submission to the BFRG: the BFRG will be responsible for considering the findings and making recommendations to the Vice-Chancellor. The final report will be provided in strict confidence to the Vice-Chancellor and to the Chair of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee. The Chair of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee may, at his or her discretion, share the final report in strict confidence with the Audit and Scrutiny Committee.
The final report will contain:
- a description of the allegations and the steps taken to investigate them;
- a conclusion as to whether the allegations made had substance and if so the extent of any adverse impact on the University;
- a description of any steps taken in relation to the individual or individuals concerned together with recommendations as to any disciplinary action;
- the measures taken to minimise the risk of a recurrence; and
- any action needed to strengthen future responses to incidents of bribery, which may include provision for a follow-up report within a specified time frame.
The Registrar shall maintain a register (the ‘Register’) of all allegations of bribery which are reported within the University (except Oxford University Press, which maintains its own records), including those where there was found to be no case to answer.
The Register will be maintained and will be available for inspection, subject to the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
The Register shall specify the following, in an anonymised form, in relation to each case of bribery:
- what the suspected or actual incident was;
- whether the incident was suspected or actual;
- when the suspected or actual incident occurred;
- what the actual and potential impact of the incident on the University might be;
- what inquiries were made and/or action was taken, including any reports to other regulators or the police;
- how any decision to terminate the investigation of the incident was made, and why;
- what policies and procedures were in place that applied to the incident, whether they were followed, and if not, why; and
- whether policies and procedures need to be introduced or revised, and if so, how and by when;
- the date that the final report was provided to the Vice-Chancellor and Chair of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee and, if relevant, to the Audit and Scrutiny Committee.
Communication with parties involved
Subject to the findings of the final report and agreement of recommended actions, the individual or individuals involved will be informed of the outcome as soon as possible after its presentation to the Vice-Chancellor and Chair of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee and, if relevant, to the Audit and Scrutiny Committee.
The complainant will be informed in broad terms of the outcome of the investigation, having due regard to the confidentiality of information relating to the individual or individuals accused and others identified in the report.