Thursday 11 July 2013

Stinking fish and small coffees - the language of bribery around the world

Well-travelled NAMs may well be aware of some of the euphemisms for bribes but a new BBC report should help to clarify the grey area of bribery and corruption. Phrases including "beans for the kids" in Kinshasa, "a glass of wine" in Paris, and "a small coffee" in most places are all signals that the buyer is ‘almost there’ except for….

However, unless your buyer is particularly outspoken and direct, then building up familiarity with bribery shorthand may help in establishing whether a NAM and buyer are in Bribery Act territory…

Bribery defined
When in doubt, it is important to go back to basics and establish a clear personal position on bribery. Bribery is quite clearly an overt inducement to the buyer to over-ride the logic of a buying decision where a supplier’s competitor is patently offering a better deal on a like-with-like basis. In other words, the supplier’s offering is equal with that of the competitor except for the additional £10k on the price to fund the bribe.

This point, the first of many, was brought out at the case against the UK potato buyer on 30th April 2012 in court by the prosecution: "A peculiar feature of the corruption was that it was self-funding. [The supplier was] not paying for it, [the retailer was] paying for the corruption of their own buyer and this was achieved by overcharging [the retailer]".

For further guidance on the distinction between gifts and bribery see KamBlog: buyer-seller corruption 

Action for NAMs
The answer for NAMs is always to attempt to revert to the base deal and check that it satisfies objective buying criteria (the buyer’s job needs), like-with-like, before focusing on the buyer’s emotional needs. In practice some of this process occurs simultaneously, but it remains vital that the supplier’s basic offering is defensible and transparent, always, and with 20/20 hindsight…..its the nature of the job, folks.

Meanwhile, if the buyer offers you ‘a small cup of coffee’ at the end of what you thought was a done-deal, best stick to the usual mug of tea, without sweetener, unless he insists, of course…

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