Some people who end up facing criminal charges for kickbacks had no idea they were doing anything illegal – or they might be led to believe that it’s something “everyone” does – like rolling through a stop sign. Kickbacks can occur in the private or public sector. However, if your business bids on government contracts, it’s important to understand what kickbacks are and that they can result in criminal charges.
A kickback is one form of bribery. It’s any kind of payment that’s made in return for some type of preferential treatment or improper or questionable service. While that payment may be in cash, it can be anything of value. Sometimes kickbacks involve trading favors.
Steering clear of pressure to provide a kickback
Businesses that bid on government contracts may easily come across someone, from a procurement officer to an elected official, who is willing to move their business up to the front of the line or, if they have the authority, to award a lucrative contract to them if they’re willing to pay for it.
Business owners who are experienced with bidding on government contracts learn to spot the signs of a kickback scheme and steer clear of it. In fact, one clear sign is when there doesn’t appear to be any structured bidding process. Newer business owners may get caught up in paying a kickback. Sometimes they’re told that this is the way things are done.
Why kickbacks are harmful
Awarding government contracts based on who’s willing to pay the most is never in the public’s best interest. No one wants an inferior contractor given a contract to build a bridge, for example. Further, kickback schemes can stunt competition in an industry if the best, most qualified business can’t succeed because it’s not willing to “play along.”
If you’re facing investigation or charges because you were pressured to provide a kickback in order to get a government contract, it’s crucial that you understand how serious the matter is. It’s wise to seek legal guidance as soon as possible.