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Ghost workers

CS142 (Case 58)
Trades / Industries:
Areas of Concern:

Clint was a construction engineer at a private housing estate construction site. He had spent most of his time mingling with foremen and construction workers.


Bobby, a site foreman, was working with Clint on the project.  Bobby had an assistant, Chui, who had been his right hand man for many years. On the day, Chui fell ill and Bobby took over the routine check of books and accounts.  He suddenly saw the names of two workers whom he did not recall seeing on the site the day before marked into the attendance book.  He thought it was a mere error of entry but to make sure, he summoned the two workers to come and see him.


When the two workers showed up, Bobby was amazed to see that they were totally unabashed.  They admitted outright that they had been absent the day before and that their chums had clocked in their attendance cards for them.  They were even brazen enough to put forth a number of points to justify what they had done.


They claimed that attendance at work did not necessarily mean that the progress would be faster.  The guys needed time-out and rest in order to restore their strength after their leave days and therefore they could work hard to compensate for the day lost.  The productivity would be higher.  And they had never let Bobby down, had they?  This had been a system drawn up by the workers and everybody knew about it, seeing it as an incentive to their work or even a bonus.  Bobby was aghast.


Worse still, the phone rang at that time.  It was Clint.  He wanted to check out with Bobby about the expenses and asked him to file the site accounting report.


Bobby was at a loss as to what to do.  He wondered how much Chui was involved in this.  If Chui was in the know all along, then he himself would be an incompetent fool not to realise that this was going on under his nose. On the other hand, he did not wish to antagonize his men.  What should he do?


Should he report to Clint and blow the whistle?  Or should he stand by his men, including Chui?   Would it reflect badly on him either way?

Case Analysis

Chui and the construction workers, as employees of the construction company, submitted the false attendance records with the intention to deceive salaries from their employer had violated Section 9(3) of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (POBO).


Bobby was facing an ethical dilemma that might put his personal values such as responsibility and honesty to challenge. On one hand, he had the supervisory responsibility to report the misconduct of the workers to the company; on the other hand, it might reflect badly on him if Clint learnt that he failed to discharge his supervisory duties properly. In handling the situation, Bobby should identify the relevant facts and take stock of all stakeholders concerned. The following factors should be taken into consideration when identifying viable alternatives and choosing the best course of action for himself:


  1. Does his decision violate any professional, industry specific, or company code of conduct?
  2. Is his decision against the law?
  3. Does it correspond with his self-values such as honesty and responsibility?
  4. Can he disclose the decision to others openly and honestly without misgivings?


The ETHICS PLUS ethical decision making model might be helpful for him in solving the dilemma.

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