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Political activities and payments

We keep our relationships with government honest

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What it's all about

As a company, we may contribute to public debates about policies that affect our business. 

However, when it comes to political parties Serco needs to stay impartial and not favour one over another. Serco does not contribute to any political party, politician, or candidate for public office, or try to raise funds for them.

All of us who work for Serco have our own interests outside work and have the absolute right to engage in lawful political activity in our own time. However, we do need to keep our personal political activities (including donations and support) separate from any role we have at Serco to protect the company’s interests and reputation.

So as employees of Serco, we need to take care that nothing we do or say compromises the impartiality of the company or involves it in our own personal political agenda.

There’s one exception – a Political Action Committee (PAC).

In the US a PAC can legitimately campaign for particular political policies and give money to candidates or parties that support those policies. Where we have a legitimate voluntary PAC, employees are free to personally contribute donations in accordance with very strict conditions. 

Where we have a legitimate voluntary PAC, employees are free to contribute donations. However, PACs and similar voluntary schemes are only allowed in some countries, and they can only operate under very strict conditions. These are the most important ones:

  • even though the scheme is in the Company’s name, it must be run independently;

  • no Company monies will be contributed to the PAC, so that it is just handling colleague personal donations; and

  • the Company must not have any influence on its management.

If the PAC is properly formed and governed, the Divisional CEO can then authorise it, and permit appropriate political contributions to be made, so long as these are done strictly in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.  Serco does not penalise in any way Serco staff who not contribute to the PAC.

There are also important rules around Lobbying

Lobbying involves engaging a third-party who is registered to legitimately communicate with public officials and government bodies to help influence law-making or government policies. None of us can lobby on Serco’s behalf or represent the company in government and regulatory matters unless we have registered under the local applicable laws and regulations and been authorised to do so.

If we are involved in lobbying, then we must always know and obey all the relevant laws and regulations about how companies should participate in public affairs.

Serco may participate in trade associations for a variety of reasons, including networking, building industry skills, civic participation and monitoring of industry policies and trends. Our participation in trade associations, including membership on a trade association board or attendance to conferences, does not mean that the company agrees with every position a trade association takes on an issue. In fact, from time to time our corporate positions may differ from those of the trade association of which we are members.  Furthermore, we ensure and make clear that trade association are not to use Serco funds for independent campaign expenditures or contributions to Public Officials or Political Parties.

“We can and should support causes we believe in. We just need to be careful how we do that – and stay out of party politics!”

What we all need to know and do

  • We never use company funds or resources to support any political candidate or party.

  • We always obtain approval before engaging in any lobbying activities or hiring a lobbyist.

  • Whenever we hire a lobbyist we carefully follow our Third-Party Due Diligence Manual.

  • Personal political activities can sometimes create a conflict with Serco. So if we or a close relative are planning to accept or seek a public office, or if any other political activity might have an impact on Serco or on our job, we always talk to our manager.

  • If we’re going to contact politicians or those with political influence, we always get approval from our communications teams and manager before doing so. And we take the same care if we are going to attend a political party’s event for briefing purposes.

  • Unless we’ve been authorised to speak on Serco’s behalf, we always make it clear that our opinions or views are personal and do not represent Serco’s position. We do the same if we’re asked to speak at any external events and aren’t authorised to speak on Serco’s behalf.

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I’ve never been very interested in politics, so I was surprised when my brother-in-law asked me to speak at an election rally. It turned out he just wanted me to say a few words about how much he cared about our family and how closely we all worked to support each other, which was mostly true. 

The rally was in a village hall not far from where he lived. It was a hot evening and the place was packed with supporters and journalists. I hadn’t realised what a rising star he was. When he invited me to the microphone, my hands were shaking.

‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ he said. ‘I’d like to introduce you to a member of my family for whom I have the deepest admiration and respect. A man who has worked hard all his life and now holds a top position at Serco, where he is dedicated to serving our community.’

It was a bit of an exaggeration to say I held a top position, but in front of all those people I have to confess the flattery made me feel more confident. I managed to get through my little speech without drying up. The applause was deafening. 

Feeling very relieved, I smiled at the flashing cameras and went back to my seat on the stage beside the other speakers. Then it was his turn.

He was running as an opposition candidate for our provincial assembly. His target was the health system, which had seen three ministers come and go in less than two years. I was vaguely aware of this, as some of my colleagues had complained about a long-overdue contract that was holding everything up. Fortunately it wasn’t my problem because I worked in transport. I’d never heard him make a speech before. He was full of fire and passion, playing the audience to perfection so that they cheered and whistled as he whipped them into a frenzy.

‘Have you ever seen such incompetence?’ he thundered. ‘And why? Because they only care about their careers, not about us, the people!’

The audience cheered and stamped their feet.

‘Look what’s happening to the hospital programme. It has ground to a halt! Why? Because all they’re interested in is fighting each other to get the top jobs and the salaries that go with them.’

Then he turned and gestured towards me 

‘And if you don’t believe me, ask my brother-in-law. Serco has been ready and waiting to operate the new hospital that has been waiting for approval for two years – yes, two years – and thanks to these imbeciles nothing has happened!’

This brought the audience to their feet. There was another burst of camera flashes, many of them aimed at me, it seemed. An alarm bell was ringing faintly in my head, but I was too overwhelmed at being the centre of attention to pay it much attention. Not that it would have made any difference.

The next day, the headlines in the regional media spelled out how much trouble I was in. ‘Serco condemns Health Ministry’ read one, with a picture of me beneath it. ‘Health Ministry incompetence revealed by Serco’ read another. None of it was true of course, but the damage was done.

My colleagues on the hospital team weren’t happy. Nor was my boss. It hadn’t even occurred to me to tell her about the rally or the fact that my brother-in-law was a candidate. Of course that’s what I should have done and she would have advised me amongst other things to make it absolutely clear from the outset that I was there is a personal capacity and not for the company. But it was too late for that. Despite the media team’s efforts to correct the story, we lost the hospital contract a few weeks later. We nearly lost a transport too. And I didn’t get the promotion I was hoping for. 

My brother-in-law won the election. He was extremely apologetic about my problems at work, though he soon forgot about it as his career progressed. We’re still friendly, but the relationship between our families is less close than it used to be. However, I can’t blame him for what happened to me. I just didn’t think it through when I accepted the invitation.

Unless we’ve been authorised to speak on Serco’s behalf, we always make it clear that our opinions or views are personal and do not represent Serco’s position. 

We do the same if we’re asked to speak at any external events and aren’t authorised to speak on Serco’s behalf.

He was absolutely charming, the ideal lobbyist. He had an impressive client list, excellent references and was a respected member of his professional association. We were in a hurry – as always – so we snapped him up as quickly as we could.

The job itself wasn’t at all controversial. We were experiencing delays with the import of vital machinery, and a simple tweak of the import regulations would speed things up without compromising the government’s policies or costing them any money. It was a win-win, just a question of unravelling a bureaucratic tangle. 

Within a month he was making significant progress. The government was sympathetic to our proposals and told us the changes might even be made by the end of the year. We breathed a collective sigh of relief and told ourselves, job done.

Except it wasn’t. What we didn’t know was that he was working secretly for a notorious property developer who wanted to build a theme park on the edge of a nature reserve. We only found out when the lobbyist was caught on CCTV handing a briefcase of cash to an official from the Department of Planning. 

When the story came out that he was also working for us, all hell broke loose. The anti-government media had a field day suggesting we were offering bribes too, and the government itself was furious with us for embarrassing them. We looked so stupid.

The thing we had missed was that the lobbyist was not only a business partner of the property developer, he was a lifelong friend as well. It was all out there, ready to be found if we’d dug a bit deeper. 

But – as always – we were in a hurry. More haste, less speed, as they say. The import regulations are still the same and we’re still experiencing delays with our machinery. 

Whenever we hire a lobbyist we carefully follow our due diligence procedure

The children looked so happy as we gave out the books. I was happy too. An old family friend had told me about a charity that had been set up to promote early-age reading in village schools. 

I knew the charity must be legit because my friend was the treasurer, and he’s scrupulously honest. So I was delighted to offer Serco’s support - It was a perfect fit for our community outreach programme.

So there I was at the launch standing under a banner that proudly displayed our logo alongside the charity’s name, smiling for the cameras. But all of a sudden they lost interest. A big car was pulling up. Out if it stepped someone I recognised all too well, a local politician who was fiercely critical of the local government’s education policy. The problem was, we had several contracts with them. 

Before I could do anything he shook my hand and posed with me under the banner. What I hadn’t realized was that he was one of the charity’s co-founders – because I hadn’t checked.

There was a lot of explaining to do. The local government accused us of being politically biased, and in the end my boss had to step in to apologize personally. 

And of course it all put a big black mark on my record. As my manager said to me, ‘There’s nothing wrong with being passionate about a good cause, but it’s no excuse for not checking the details properly.’ 

I learned that the hard way. 

When it comes to political parties Serco needs to stay impartial and not favour one over another.

It was so difficult. I didn’t want to make him feel in any way that he could pursue his own personal political activities, but there was a clear conflict between what he was doing and Serco’s interests.

He’s a passionate environmentalist. And some of the things he’s proposed we do at the site have been brilliant – really good ideas that we’ve adopted and shared. 

Recently he’s become increasingly active in the organisations that are determined to get governments and business to urgently address climate change. In principle I agree pretty much totally agree with him. 

But some of his actions have crossed the line. Last month he was arrested with other activists from blocking a bridge in the centre of town and creating a 5 mile tailback of traffic. 

And then yesterday when we got to work we found a group of activists outside the yard preventing our trucks from getting in or out. And he was among them. 

I don’t want to prevent anyone from following their own political agenda, but he’s taken this too far and now I have to call him in. 

Personal political activities can sometimes create a conflict with Serco. So if we or a close relative are planning to accept or seek a public office, or if any other political activity might have an impact on Serco or on our job, we always talk to our manager.

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Bribery and corruption

We never take or offer any kind of bribe.

Gifts and hospitality

We always check before giving or receiving any gift or hospitality.

Conflicts of interest

We always declare any potential conflict of interest. If we’re not sure, we ask.

Working with communities

We support and respect the communities we work among.

Competition and antitrust

We always compete fairly and openly.

Working with others

We deal fairly and honestly with suppliers, strategic partners and agents, and expect the same of them.

Trade sanctions and export controls

We take care to know and follow the rules.

Accurate records, reporting and accounting

We always maintain accurate records, reports and accounts.

Tax evasion

We never do it, or help anyone else to.

Money laundering

We will not take part in any money laundering activity, and do all we can to stop it.

Insider trading

Never use inside information for insider trading – it’s a serious crime.