As the holiday season approaches, we see many compliance officers feeling the pressure as they struggle to ensure employees are complying with gifts & corporate hospitality guidelines. Breaches of these policies could not only see employees breaking corporate codes of conduct and breaching company values, but it could even result in bribery & corruption prosecutions for the organisation if not managed correctly.
But how can compliance managers effectively ensure that any gifts, experiences, and entertainment received or offered by employees align with protocols – and ensure the correct approvals take place and keep a complete log of everything for audit purposes?
Traditionally organisations start out using spreadsheets to log this kind of activity – and any required approvals are done on an ad hoc basis through email. While this can be effective in smaller organisations, when you get into larger scale organisations with hundreds or even thousands of employees – with different reporting lines and approval chains and guidelines based on roles and locations – the activity becomes too complex for manual processes.
Fortunately for compliance officers GRC tools are available to automate and standardise this process, making life easier for both employees and the compliance teams trying to track their behaviour. In this blog we look at the different GRC technology capabilities available to simplify and automate the disclosure process, and we explore the advantages of implementing a best-practice software tool to manage this process.
Let’s look at how these tools are helping compliance officers to reduce the complexity around gifts and hospitality disclosures.
Receiving Gifts from Suppliers
Firstly, these tools make the logging of any gift or hospitality event easy for employees. Staff simply complete an online form to declare the benefit they have received. The forms have standard fields to capture all the relevant details including which supplier sent the gift, how much it was worth, when it was received and who by – many systems even allow you to upload relevant photos and associated URL’s. Choose a solution that lets you easily customise the form to ensure you can add or rename fields based on the individual needs of your organisation. Ensure these updates can be made by your teams – rather than requiring costly professional services fees.
Once a gift or hospitality event is logged on the system and formally disclosed by the recipient, this is where the automation kicks in and the real magic happens. Firstly, compliance teams can set a gift limit for each employee, this can vary based on their country, office location, department, or role level. Setting these rules enables compliance teams to use automated control monitoring to flag problems. If an employee logs an item that exceeds their limit, they will be notified, and an approval notification will automatically be sent to their line manager where they can confirm if the employee can accept or reject the gift. Once the line manager approves or rejects the gift, the employee will then receive a notification – so they know how to act. You can also set rules around the number of gifts and set thresholds for each supplier or vendor. These rules help employees operate within the desired limits – and any potential problems are quickly noticed. Rules can also be set to flag suspicious activity at a department or site level to pinpoint potential problems enabling areas of the business – that could be susceptible to bribery & corruption – to receive additional training.
As employees start to use the system and log activity, compliance teams can get a greater understanding of the kinds of gifts & hospitality being offered and capture any potential breaches of company policy. One of the great benefits of using specialist GRC tools to declare the receipt of corporate gifts & hospitality is the real time dashboards and reports. At the click of a button, leaders can view dashboards and drill down into different sites, departments, and individuals that are violating any policies. They can set and amend thresholds when policies are revised. They can track overdue approvals and understand the organisations exposure to bribery & corruption risk. These instant reports save compliance teams significant time on running reports and crunching numbers, giving them more time to analyse the data and make the process improvements needed to reduce bribery & corruption within the organisation through training & policy updates.
Offering Gifts to Suppliers
As well as external staff receiving gifts from suppliers the solution can also work in the same way for any gifts or corporate hospitality offered out to your own clients. Gifts can play an important role in developing client relationships but in highly competitive sectors vying for large contracts, bribery & corruption can be rife. This often plays out in the news, especially when it involves taxpayers’ money relating to large contracts for governments, schools, and healthcare organisations that land with suppliers that are closely linked to the acquaintances of the government officials selecting the vendors.
Using manual spreadsheets to log gifts offered to suppliers can cause problems. Gaining approval to send gifts can be a slow process, it can be challenging to define thresholds to understand if the value of gifts offered violates the company guidelines, and reporting can be time consuming.
Using GRC software to automate the giving of corporate gifts & hospitality has many advantages. Firstly, staff can log any gifts they plan to send using an online form, with predefined fields to ensure compliance capture the relevant information in a standardised way. Automatic workflows enable staff to gain approval for the sending of a gift based on its value. Low value gifts can be auto approved, and higher value items can be sent to the relevant stakeholder for sign off depending on the value. Automated notifications and alerts keep the approval process moving to ensure automated approval or denial decisions within seconds.
GRC solutions can usually be linked to your employee data within your HR systems via API integrations to ensure all staff can access the solution and reporting lines are up to date. Managers can easily view dashboards to see what gifts their team are sending and how often – and view any gifts pending sign off. Compliance officers can easily run reports to understand when suspicious activity is taking place and set rules around company gift giving guidelines to ensure staff are operating ethically. The solution provides a complete audit trail for regulators of what was offered and when, enabling organisations to prove that they are acting ethically and with integrity.
What functionality should I look for when choosing a GRC solution to manage gifts and hospitality?
- Look for a SaaS solution that is available in the cloud to ensure you always get the latest version of the tool and are able to access any new features and improvements offered by the software provider.
- Look for customisable solutions that enable you to amend forms, naming conventions, fields, reports, dashboards, and workflows yourself – without costly professional services fees and coding.
- Look for solutions that offer API integrations with other systems and data. This will enable you to pull in information from other sources including employee details from HR systems, and supplier details from vendor risk programmes. This will ensure the system is using the most up to date data, providing a single source of truth.
- Look for systems that provide out of the box best-practice dashboards & reports that are drillable and can be easily customised to meet any specific reporting requirements your organisation may have.
- Look for intuitive easy to use solutions with single sign on to ensure the users require minimal training and don’t have yet another password to remember.
- Look for independent reviews with high ratings in customer support and ease of implementation, to ensure a smooth transition to the system.
- Look for solutions that offer on-line portals and mobile apps – allowing staff to log the sending and receiving of gifts anytime, anywhere.
When employee numbers are in the hundreds or thousands, keeping track of gift giving and receiving becomes far too complex for manual processes & spreadsheets. Using an automated GRC software solution to manage gifts & hospitality makes your approval processes consistent, efficient, and compliant. The data analytics within the tool support compliance teams to implement rules according to jurisdiction and global laws to ensure compliance. The inclusive nature of an on-line software solution drives employee accountability and builds awareness of company policies and code-of-conduct guidelines – enhancing overall compliance. Finally, the inbuilt audit trail and reporting functionality saves compliance teams valuable time, enabling them to focus their attention on improving compliance rather than administrative reporting tasks.
The right gifts & hospitality solution will help your organisation to mitigate misconduct risk and drive a culture of compliant behaviour. Ensure the only headache your Compliance Officer has over the festive season is from the Christmas party. Request a demo of the Camms solution today.