Last updated: Friday, April 26, 2019


Giving and Receiving Gifts: Potential Risk to Corruption, Bribery

Posted: Wednesday, December 05, 2018

In some countries, presenting gifts or treating customers or business partners is a very common practice that shows respect and comes from goodwill. However, this behaviour can become corruption and bribery when it goes beyond the limit.

Clear gift policy
Not all is aware that their behaviour is an act of corruption or bribery because they think that it is only a custom practice, a habit and a culture in business. But this issue arises when those common practices break the given limits. So, what are habits and practices we need to be aware to avoid falling into nonintentional acts of corruption?

Normally, in countries where there is a gift culture in business, this practice will follow the principle of reciprocity, meaning that you present a gift and you will get something from customers or partners in exchange. If the gift and the treatment can result in a change in decision in a way that is beneficial to you, then that means you are doing unfair competition. Even if you do not have such a purpose, it is still asserted that you are giving a bribe. So, you need to be more careful in this matter.

To avoid such a situation, the Action Programme for Promoting Integrity in Business launched by the Business Office for Sustainable Development under the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) proposes that you should have a clear “gift policy” in your code of conduct in business. These rules will help you identify which gifts are suitable, which ones are not, and which ones are problematic. This policy should include giving gifts, receiving gifts and notes for giving or receiving gifts.

An employee needs permission from his/her superior to receive or give gifts. Some businesses may be eager to receive/give gifts but some may be not. Therefore, when receiving requests for receiving gifts or giving gifts from employees, a manager should ask himself/herself the following questions: Is gift giving or receiving is contrary to the law or regulations of its partners? Is the gift affect the objectivity of the recipient's decision? Is it seen as an act of bribery in the eyes of others? In case there is any “yes” answer, you must be more careful and make more reasonable and appropriate decisions that will help your business avoid the risk of corruption.

In addition, the Action Programme for Promoting Integrity in Business launched by the Business Office for Sustainable Development - VCCI suggests that doing charity or giving donations are acts of great humanity but in Vietnam this noble deed is abused by some officials to embezzle or take a bribe.

If doing charity or funding events influences the decision-making process, this is still a form of “disguised bribery”. You must make sure that the money spent on charity or event sponsorship does not have any relation to business deals and it should not be misunderstood that this is a way to seize a contract or cover up corruption.

In addition, the “facilitation” cost or unofficial cost is a case that needs to be specially considered. This type of fee may be legal in certain circumstances but it may also become illegal in some other cases.
In Vietnam, this fee is relatively common as it is paid for State services to accelerate progress, facilitate or make sure that working results are achieved as expected. But, it is only legal when competent authorities have regulations on it and make it public.

However, if this extra fee is not regulated by policy and law and not is not made public, this will be considered a bribe and your business may face the risk of committing corruption.

Conflicts of interest are also one of main causes of corruption, especially in business. To avoid conflicts of interest, you should make clear provisions in this regard in the Code of Conduct.

In order to prevent corruption effectively, according to the Action Programme for Promoting Integrity in Business, it is necessary to early detect violations in each sector to have timely prevention and settlement. Agencies and enterprises must focus on building a strong workforce full of political stuff, virtue and professional knowledge to stand ready to meet and complete all tasks in the new phase.

Anticorruption Law (amended) takes effect on July 1, 2019
On November 20, 2018, with 93.2 per cent of aye votes, the National Assembly passed the amended Anticorruption Law, which includes 10 chapters with 96 articles, effective from July 1, 2019.

The law provides clauses on corruption prevention and detection; and settlement of corruption and other acts of law violations. The ruling also stipulates acts of corruption. Specifically, acts of corruption in the public sector are committed by officials, including embezzlement of property, bribery, power abuse for property appropriation, power abuse for personal interests.

In particular, corrupt behaviour is giving bribes and soliciting bribes to solve affairs at State agencies or localities for personal interests; abusing powers and positions to illegally use public properties for personal interests; making harassment for personal interests; refusing to perform, performing official tasks or duties improperly or incompletely for personal interests; abusing powers and positions to cover up persons who commit violations to gain personal interests.

Corrupt acts in the non-State sector by persons in power in enterprises or organisations include embezzling property, giving and soliciting bribery to solve works of enterprises and organisations for personal interests.
The law also provides for prohibited acts, including acts of threatening, retaliating, repressing, disclosing information about reporters and whistle-blowers of corruption.

On reporting, denouncing and handling complaints about corrupt acts, the law stipulates that individuals and organisations have the right to report on corrupt acts and individuals have the right to denounce acts of corruption. Competent agencies and individuals, upon receipt of reports and denunciations on corrupt acts, shall have to promptly consider, timely settle and handle measures to protect reporters and whistle-blowers. The reception and settlement of denunciations of corrupt acts shall comply with the law on denunciations. The receipt and handling of reports on corrupt acts shall comply with the law on reception of citizens.

In relation to anticorruption agencies, the Anticorruption Law provides that the Inspectorate of Government, the Ministry of Public Security and the Supreme People's Procuracy have specialised anticorruption units. The organisation, tasks and powers of specialised anticorruption units shall be defined by the Standing Committee of the National Assembly. The organisation, tasks and powers of specialised anticorruption units in the Inspectorate of Government and the Ministry of Public Security are stipulated by the Government.

Quynh Chi

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