New laws aim to prevent bribery in companies

AUSTRALIAN companies are being urged to review their anti-bribery regimes in the wake of laws introduced into parliament this week to strengthen efforts against white-collar crime.

The laws mean companies and their executives could face fines up to $1.8 million if they fail to maintain proper accounting records. Executives could also face 10 years in jail.

Those changes will give regulators more power to crack down on companies that label possible bribes as consulting fees, travel expenses or "after-sales service fees".

Transparency International Australia chief Phil Newman said the key strength of the laws was it was "no longer necessary to prove that a benefit was received by another person for an offence to have occurred".

He called for higher standards of personal responsibility for directors and a ban on companies that had committed bribery offences from tendering for contracts, and said it was critical for firms to update their anti-bribery compliance regimes.