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Lax supervision

CS066 (Case 134)
Trades / Industries:

A large building project developed by a public body (PB), involving five residential blocks and a commercial complex with a car park, should be completed by April 2003.   The PB awarded the project to a main contractor CK Holdings Ltd (CK) in May 2001 at $1,800 million.   Central Architects and Engineers Ltd (CAE) was appointed by the PB as the project consultant.


There were a number of sub-contractors responsible for different aspects of work for this project.   Among them, CK sub-contracted all plastering works to Diamondhead Plastering Company and CHONG was its proprietor.


Being the project consultant, CAE was responsible for monitoring and supervising the workmanship and progress of work including that for CK and its various sub-contractors.   CAE had recruited a team of five residential site supervisory staff headed by a Clerks of Works (CoW) Martin.   All of them were public servants acting as an agent for the PB in the project.


CHONG, Martin and other site supervisory staff of CAE always had dinner together and played mahjong after work.   Being a habitual gambler, Martin was in great debt and often borrowed money from his relatives and friends.


CHONG also invited Martin to Shenzhen on several occasions to have lavish meals and attend nightclubs.   CHONG paid all the bills on these occasions.   Furthermore, CHONG sometimes offered Martin loans and chips in the casinos in Macau.   Martin considered CHONG treated him well solely on friendly basis.


Shortly  after  their  visits  to  Shenzhen  and  Macau,  CHONG  went  to Martin’s site office and suggested to adopt a quicker method for laying screed. Instead of using a thorough mixture of cement, sand, aggregate and water, CHONG proposed to adopt a ‘semi-dry sand’ method in which a layer of sand was put onto a layer of cement and thereafter water was sprayed onto the layers.   Although this shortcut method of laying screed was used in some other projects, it was not allowed in this project and it was clearly stipulated in the Specifications.   Thus, Martin immediately objected to the suggestion.


On the day before Winter Solstice, CHONG approached Martin again and pleaded for relaxation on the screeding method.   He indicated that the screeding work had been behind schedule and the liquidated damage for delay was heavy.   CHONG offered a laisee packet of $50,000 to Martin claiming that it was for the forthcoming Winter Solstice and requesting for ‘flexibility’ in acceptance of work completed.  He also demanded Martin not to be too stringent when inspecting the work.   He further indicated that since he had been treating Martin well for so long it should be time for Martin to do something in return.   Finally, Martin decided to accept the bribe, accede to CHONG’s request and connive at the shortcut screeding method.



CHONG and Martin were later arrested by the ICAC and were found guilty of offences under Section 4 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (POBO).




  1. How did CHONG and Martin violate the POBO?
  2. What do you think about the over-socialisation between Martin and CHONG?
  1. Is customary practice, such as giving laisees during festivals (開工利是), a defence to accept an advantage? Why?
  1. Being a habitual gambler, what is the possible risk of Martin in respect of corruption?


Case Analysis

Section 4 of the Prevention of Bribery  Ordinance


Section 4 of the POBO deals with corruption relating to public servants. Under this section, it is an offence for:

  • a public servant to solicit or accept any advantage offered as an inducement to or reward for any action or inaction in connection with the performance of his official duty; and
  • any person who offers such an advantage.


In the circumstances, CHONG offered an advantage to Martin for conniving at the shortcut screeding method. Both thus committed an offence under Section 4 of the POBO.




The contractor and site supervisory staff work in close circles and they easily become over-socialised and develop unhealthy relationship. Gambling, lavish and frequent entertainment are conducive to corrupt activities among the parties. The acceptance of free pleasure trips is an advantage under the POBO.     Such unhealthy relationships will easily affect their ability to effectively supervise the works of the contractors. Site staff may also be “sweetened up” by the unscrupulous contractors with the lavish and excessive entertainment.


Customary Practices


Any special events or festive occasions, such as ‘Lo Pan Festival’ (魯班誕 ),  are  not  excuses  for  staff  to  accept  any  advantage  or  laisee  from contractors. As  stipulated  in  section  19  of  the  Prevention  of  Bribery Ordinance, it shall not be a defence to show that any advantage accepted is customary in any profession, trade, vocation or calling.




Habitual gamblers and persons in debt are highly vulnerable to corruption. Loans offered by contractors to site supervisory staff are major temptations and frontline staff who are in great debt will be comparatively easier to be tempted to accept bribes.

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