Who has robbed my hard-earned money?
Hong Kong Business Ethics Development Centre Independent Commission Against Corruption

Synopsis

Ali is on his first day of work at a construction site. Knowing that Ali would like to introduce his relative to work at the same site, the foreman asks for an "introduction fee" for getting his relative a job opportunity. The foreman also solicits tea money from Ali for keeping his job in the site. Noting that the other workers have been following the "trade practice" to pay the tea money, Ali feels being exploited but does not know what to do.

Question 1

The foreman solicits introduction fees and tea money from his construction workers. Does the foreman commit any offence?

Tips from iSir According to Section 9 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, the foreman is an agent (employee) of the construction company. He commits an offence as he, without the permission of his principal (employer), solicits and accepts advantages (introduction fees and tea money) from the workers in exchange for arranging them to work in the construction site. The workers as well as the job seekers also commit the corruption offence by offering advantages to the foreman.

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. Therefore, no matter how much money is involved, the act above is already in breach of the law.

Question 2

The foreman points out that the other workers give him the introduction fees and tea money because it is a “trade practice”. Can “trade practice” or “custom” be an excuse for accepting advantages?

Tips from iSir According to Section 19 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, it shall not be a defence even if the advantage is customary in any profession / trade / vocation / calling in any proceedings for an offence under this Ordinance. The foreman commits Section 9 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance as he, without the permission of his principal (employer), abuses his position to solicit and accept introduction fees and tea money from the workers.

Question 3

Tips from iSir According to the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, anyone who offers an advantage to an agent for a job will breach the law. Therefore, Ali should decline to offer at the outset and report to the ICAC as soon as possible so as to safeguard his own interest and avoid being implicated in corruption.
Don’t bribe for jobs and be a smart job seeker!

Anyone who pays bribes to get a job or to keep a job not only results in being exploited of wages, but also needs to bear criminal liability for corruption. If the foreman solicits introduction fee or tea money from you, you should refuse at the outset and report to the ICAC as soon as possible. The ICAC 24-hour report hotline: 25 266 366. Adopt a zero tolerance to corruption and enjoy the fruits of your hard work.