Companies are warned Bribery Act 'serious' about tackling corruption
A majority of big businesses in Northern Ireland thinks firms are unlikely to report instances of bribery and corruption - despite the introduction of the Bribery Act later this year.
Scottish law firm McGrigors, which has an office in Belfast, said it asked 30 of the province's biggest firms for views on the legislation, which starts in July.
Nearly three-quarters said businesses were unlikely to self-report offences against the Act.
The firm said the findings would disappoint law enforcement agencies hoping that a 'self-reporting culture' would be fostered by the Act and would wipe out corporate corruption.
One-fifth of respondents to McGrigors' survey said the cost of complying with the legislation outweighed the risk of prosecution, while four-fifths said the were "concerned" about complying with the act.
Around one-third said they believed business corruption offences were "common" here.
Ann McGregor, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, said businesses could not expect to escape the Act.
She added: "Businesses in Northern Ireland should not be under any illusions as to just how serious this new legislation is.
"Management should also be aware that it is not only City of London businesses and multinationals which the law enforcement agencies will go after."
McGrigors lawyer Laura Gillespie, who specialises in white collar crime, said: "Our message to Northern Ireland businesses is absolutely clear - this legislation is not going to go away."
She said wrongdoing could be discovered through the actions of a whistle-blower, by a competitor or through due diligence.
"Businesses need to understand that by being on the front foot they can save their organisation serious money, and protect both reputation and ongoing revenue."