'Master Chef' is no easy job
Hong Kong Business Ethics Development Centre Independent Commission Against Corruption

Synopsis

Wah is the head chef of a Chinese restaurant which enjoys good business. He is in charge of sourcing food suppliers, placing orders, inspecting and receiving goods, and managing staff, etc. Wah is highly appraised and well-trusted by the restaurant owner. Yet, is this "Master Chef" competent enough to handle the potential risks of corruption or malpractices in his daily work?

Question 1

The assistant chef Ho accepts rebates from the food supplier Keung. Does Ho commit any offence?

Tips from iSir According to Section 9 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, Ho is an agent (employee) of the restaurant, he commits an offence as he, without the permission of his principal (employer), solicits and accepts an advantage (5% rebate) from the food supplier Keung in exchange for showing favours to Keung’s company (including conniving at Keung’s inflated invoice price, short delivery and substandard seafood quality, etc.). Keung also commits a corruption offence by offering the advantage to Ho.

Question 2

Tips from iSir According to Section 2 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, an advantage means any gift, loan, reward, commission, employment, contract, service, favour, discharge of any liability, etc (entertainment excluded). There is no limit on the monetary value of an advantage. Although Wah may repay the debt eventually, the loan is still considered an advantage. According to Section 9 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, Wah as an agent (employee) of the restaurant, commits an offence if he, without the permission of his principal (employer), accepts an advantage (loan) from food supplier Keung in exchange for showing favours to Keung’s company (including turning a blind eye to Keung’s short and late delivery, substandard seafood quality, etc.). Therefore, employee should avoid engaging in frequent gambling activities, or accepting loans from persons having business dealings with the company, so as to stay away from corruption traps.

Question 3

The assistant chef Ho invites Wah to set up a seafood business and supply seafood to the restaurant they are working in. Is there any risks of corruption or malpractices?

Tips from iSir Ho and Wah are responsible for procuring food for the restaurant. If they set up their own seafood business to supply food to the restaurant they are working in, it will be an obvious conflict of interest situation. If employees cannot avoid a conflict of interest, they should declare it to the company for making appropriate arrangements. On the other hand, if they use falsified documents with an intent to deceive their principal, e.g. deliberately concealing their relationship with the supplier, overstating the quantity of food supplies, including some bogus food items in the invoices, etc., they may commit an offence under Section 9(3) of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance.

Apart from great culinary skills, a "Master Chef" should have a high standard of integrity. Say no to rebates and avoid conflict of interest. Restaurants can develop a mechanism for staff to declare conflict of interest, set up a system to evaluate the suppliers’ performance, and regularly review and compare prices to ensure the prices quoted by the selected suppliers are reasonable. The Hong Kong Business Ethics Development Centre is ready to offer tailor-made corruption prevention and education services to your company. You are welcome to contact us at 2587 9812 or by e-mail to [email protected] for more details.