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Hidden agenda in sponsorship

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Dr E is a consultant ophthalmologist in a public hospital who is often involved in the procurement of expensive medical equipment for his department.  The procurement department of the hospital will seek Dr E’s views while drafting the specifications and in the course of purchase.   He has a strong influence on the final selection of supplier through his assessment on the performance of the equipment.


During the procurement of equipment for oculoplastics, Billy, the sales director of a potential supplier, asked Dr E to comment favourably on the equipment produced by his company.  He proposed to pay for the passage and accommodation for Dr E to visit the company’s laboratory in New  York  and  take  the  convenience  to  attend  an  important  medical conference there.   After the trip, Dr E recommended the hospital to offer the contract to Billy’s company.

Case Analysis

Dr E would violate Section 4 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance as he accepted an advantage i.e. the sponsorship for visiting the company's laboratory and attending a conference without  the  permission  of  his  employer,  and  in  return  recommended  the medical  equipment  of  Billy’s  company  to  the  hospital.    Billy  would  also commit an offence of corruption for offering the bribe to Dr E.


Dr E might breach Section 15.1 of the Code of Professional Conduct issued by the Medical Council of Hong Kong (Oct 2022) which specifies that doctors should avoid accepting pecuniary inducement from commercial firms that might compromise the independent exercise of their professional judgement.


According to the Hospital Authority's (HA) guidelines on acceptance of donation and sponsorship, overseas site visit relating to the selection of medical equipment before or during tendering exercises should be funded by the HA and should not be sponsored by any of the potential vendors.  In any case, HA employees should not solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any advantage or gift which would, or might reasonably be seen to, compromise their integrity or judgement or influence the discharge or non-discharge of their duties and responsibilities.

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