Legal Alert – Bill on Transparency in Public Life – new anticorruption regulations

The Council of Ministers is proceeding with the bill on transparency in public life (the “Bill”), which, along with the discussed changes in the rules governing citizens’ access to public information, assumes a number of responsibilities and restrictions aimed at combating corruption, which so far have not been subject to a comprehensive regulation.

The Bill applies to medium-sized and large entrepreneurs within the meaning of the Freedom of Economic Activity Act. It provides for obligations to develop, implement and effectively follow the anticorruption code, anticorruption procedures, procedures to be implemented where irregularities are reported, procedures for avoiding costs financing mechanisms and provision of material gains or personal benefits. Moreover, it is required to implement the rule prohibiting  making decisions in the company on the basis of corruptive practices, and to develop and implement internal irregularities reporting procedures.

In addition, the Bill provides for the public prosecutor’s ability to grant the status of a whistleblower to a natural person or an entrepreneur that reports reliable information on suspicion of a criminal offence mentioned in the Bill (e.g., influence peddling, active corruption, offences connected with interruption of public procurements). The whistleblower status considerably affects durability of employment relationship.

A failure to develop internal anticorruption procedures or their apparent or ineffective implementation will be punishable by a financial penalty from PLN 10,000 to PLN 10,000,000. Furthermore, the punished entrepreneur will be unable to bid for public procurements for 5 years from the day on which the penalty decision became final. 

In addition, the Bill provides for the ability to hold the head of organizational unit liable and punish him/her with a financial penalty in the event of omissions in development or application of internal anticorruption procedures. The same penalty is applicable if anticorruption procedures are implemented only apparently or ineffectively followed in the event where an employee of that organizational unit faces charges of committing offences indicated in the Bill. What is important for entrepreneurs, the Bill in its current form provides for the above-mentioned criminal liability only for the head of a public finance sector unit.

As at 12 March 2018, the Government Legislation Center was still working on the Bill. Due to the number of comments and doubts concerning the Bill made and risen so far, unknown is a day when the Bill will be submitted to the Sejm for approval. Still, a short vacatio legis is expected and, as a result, there will be a relatively short time period for actions aimed at assuring coherence of company operation with the Bill requirements.

It is certain that upon the Bill’s enactment, your company will be required to verify its current anticorruption rules and its compliance with the draft legislation. We offer you conducting internal audit of the applied policies and anticorruption securities. If necessary, we will provide you with our recommendations relating to the modifications of the procedures followed. Alternatively we will prepare for you anticorruption rules and procedures, and implement them, if requested.

If you wish to be provided with our services within the above-described scope, we kindly ask you to contact us.