In festivals such as the Chinese New Year, it is a common occurrence in the private sector that gifts are presented from suppliers or contractors to architecture firms, and architects are invited to attend festive banquets. This article aims to highlight the points to note in accepting gifts and hospitality at festive seasons.
Legal Definition of Advantage and Entertainment
2. Under the definition of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (POBO, Cap. 201), “advantage” includes any gift, loan, fee, reward, commission, service and favour etc., except “entertainment”, which is defined as the provision of food or drink for consumption on the occasion, and any entertainment (e.g. a magic show) provided at the same time. Thus, while gifts presented are “advantage” under POBO, the food, drink and related entertainment provided during banquets are “entertainment”.
Acceptance of Gifts
3. As long as an architect accepts a gift in the belief that it is given as an inducement to or reward for him/her in doing any act in official capacity, an offence may be committed even if he/she has not eventually done any such act. Furthermore, gifts given to an architect in his/her official capacity, i.e. an employee of an architecture firm, on festive occasions are deemed gifts to the company. The architecture firms are recommended to issue a code of conduct for their staff, setting out procedures for handling the gifts so received.
Acceptance of Entertainment
4. Although entertainment is not defined as advantage under POBO, an architect accepting lavish or frequent entertainment from suppliers/contractors under his/her supervision may place himself/herself in a position of obligation, hence becomes favourably disposed to the offerors in his/her official dealings (e.g. assessing their tenders, supervising their performance under a contract). Again, a code of conduct or guideline prohibiting acceptance of lavish or excessive entertainment should be in place to avoid abuse.
Corruption Prevention Advisory Service
5. The Corruption Prevention Advisory Service (CPAS) of the Corruption Prevention Department of the ICAC is a dedicated group which provides free, confidential and tailor-made corruption prevention services, including drawing up a code of conduct for architecture firms, to private companies upon request. For further information, please contact the CPAS at:
(The full version of the POBO could be accessed through the Hong Kong e-Legislation at https://www.elegislation.gov.hk/hk/cap201!en-zh-Hant-HK?INDEX_CS=N)