Case studies


The department has an outsourced cleaning contract, due for renewal subject to a tendering exercise. The existing supplier has offered to undercut any rival’s prices if they are told what they are. Has any bribery offence been committed?

Yes – the supplier would gain a competitive advantage and commits a section 1 offence of offering or giving a bribe.


Gifts & hospitality

A project manager, seconded for 8 months from First Consulting, has proposed hosting a meal (paid for by First) at the end of the project for all departmental staff involved. Are there any significant bribery risks associated with this?

It is unlikely that this proposal could be construed as unduly influencing staff so that the consulting firm is used again in the future, however, this is how it might look to those not directly involved and so caution should be exercised. The project is complete, so as long as the meal is not overly elaborate or expensive, there is no bribery risk.

One of the University’s building projects has won a prestigious award and, as part of the team involved in arranging and managing the project, you (and the team) are invited to the awards gala dinner and presentation at a Mayfair hotel. Is it okay to attend?

Assess the invitation using the standards provided in the Gifts & Hospitality Policy; no specific preferential treatment is being offered. This would need to be recorded in the department’s Gifts & Hospitality Register.

When are gifts and hospitality appropriate? What is the connection to bribery?

Most gifts and hospitality are perfectly normal and acceptable forms of business. However, the University’s staff and representatives must act, and be seen to act, at all times in a manner that is fair, impartial and without favouritism or bias. For this reason, the Gifts & Hospitality Policy states when gifts and hospitality can be accepted or received. It also outlines who needs to approve any such gift or hospitality, and how this needs to be recorded. 

Because gifts and hospitality can be used as bribes, consideration should be given to the suitability of any gifts or hospitality. For this reason, staff and associated persons should also be aware of University’s Anti-Bribery Policy.


Travel & overseas business

The Head of Department is travelling overseas on a business development trip in the Far East. S/he wants to take a gift of a leather-bound facsimile of a Bodleian text. Its value is likely to be in the region of £250. Is this acceptable? Would this need to be recorded?

Check this gift against the standards provided in the Gifts & Hospitality Policy; this is being offered for a proper purpose, there is no intent to unduly influence, and the gift is appropriate and proportionate. It would need to be recorded in the department’s Gifts & Hospitality Register.

At the immigration desk of an International Airport you are told by the security officer examining your passport that there is an additional entry fee to pay - $50 in cash. How should you respond?

This scenario takes place in an airport but could equally occur in other circumstances, for example, obtaining treatment at a hospital, or getting vehicles or equipment properly licensed.

Establish first whether the charge is official or not. Official fees should have some form of supporting schedule or documentation. If they do, then they may be paid. If in doubt, try asking to speak to the supervisor or for a formal receipt. This may work – but not if the supervisor is also involved. If you are reasonably certain that this is a facilitation payment you need to explain why you cannot pay it. Also, contact help if possible. Being inconvenienced or being forced to wait is not in itself sufficient reason to give in to a demand for a bribe. Being threatened, however, where you genuinely fear for your safety, is sufficient – but you must report the matter as soon as possible afterwards. 


Research & research administration

You are approached by the Head of a Medical Sciences Department. They have received an anonymous tip-off that an agency they use to recruit subjects to a clinical trial in Africa is bribing individuals to sign up and take part. How would you advise the Head of Department?

Under the Bribery act it is also an offence for organisations to fail to prevent bribery by persons associated with it. The term ‘associated persons’ includes anyone employed by the University, as well as people and companies working on behalf of the University, wherever they are in the world. The University may therefore be liable for the actions of an agent, acting on its behalf.

You have arranged for a shipping agent to transport some vital research equipment overseas. They have called to say that the local customs official won’t release the items until he receives an extra ‘entry fee’. What do you tell the shipping agent?

Do not pay the fee unless written confirmation can be obtained that it is required under local law.

You are asked to visit an industrial or academic collaborator on a shared research project. They pay for your travel including flights, your accommodation and meals from shared research project. Do you need to declare this?

No declaration is needed, provided that the standard of travel, accommodation and subsistence is not more than you could claim under normal University expenses were your department to pay for you to make the same visit. Should the standard be above what could be claimed under the University’s expenses arrangements then you should declare it on your department's Gifts & Hospitality Register.


Speaking events & conferences

You are invited to speak at a conference or similar event. No fee is paid, but the organisers pay for your accommodation and travel. Bearing in mind that most of these arrangements will be in excess of £100, how should they be treated?

Payment in kind, recompense or reimbursement should be treated as ‘normal’ University business rather than a gift/hospitality. Therefore the standard University expenses procedures should be followed. No declaration under the Gifts & Hospitality Policy is required, unless the standard of accommodation and travel is more than would be claimed under normal expenses arrangements. 


Research Services

What might bribery look like in a Research Services context?

Possible examples:

An academic who is running a clinical trial in Bangladesh needs to begin enrolling participants at the start of the rainy season, which is only a couple of weeks away. Unfortunately visas for the research team have been delayed even though they were submitted in good time. The academic calls to say she has found a way to get the visas through and she needs you to authorise a small payment of £50 per researcher from the grant funds.

The University has received substantial funding from an International Development fund. In order to carry out the research project, half of the grant funds will be distributed to a commercial research company to undertake surveys across a number of developing countries. Without the University’s knowledge, the company systematically uses bribes to secure access to the communities from which the survey participants are drawn.

Contact us

For further information contact the Risk, Compliance and Assurance Team.