BRIBERY – A FAMILIAR STORY
The voice on the other end of the line was insistent. “We need that contract and we need it badly. You know how bad our financial situation is at the moment – this contract could be the difference between life and death for us. I don’t care how you do it, but you must get that contract.”
Tony Adamson put down the phone and sighed. He felt that his boss in London just did not understand how difficult things were for him in Zalesia. He knew that in reality his company had very little chance of getting the contract, which was to supply a large amount of furniture and other equipment to the new University of Zalesia. There were too many other companies interested – bigger companies that he knew would be able to offer equal quality, and probably a much better price. Adamson’s only hope was that he might be able to get the contract through a personal contact that he had inside the Ministry.
During his three years as Eduquip’s Marketing Manager in the area, he had developed a strong personal friendship with Elua Tahi, an official in the Ministry who Adamson knew was on the committee that was dealing with the University project. It wasn’t unusual for contracts in Zalesia to be given because of friendship rather than price. Maybe, Adamson thought, he had more chance than he thought. The next day, Adamson went to see Tahi in his office. For the first half hour they chatted about personal topics, and then Adamson introduced the subject of the contract. “This contract is important to you, isn’t it?” said Tahi. Adamson nodded. “Yes, and we need your support on the committee. You’ve bought equipment from Eduquip before, for the Zalesian schools. You know our quality is good, and our delivery dates are reliable. Why change to a supplier you don’t know, who might cause you problems?” “Yes,” said Tahi. “Well, I’ll see what I can do. But there are a lot of other companies interested too, of course. Oh, by the way, while you’re here, there’s a favour that I wanted to ask you.”
“Sure,” said Adamson. “Anything I can do.” “My wife has to have an operation, and she wants to have it in England. Obviously it’s going to be expensive, and you know our government’s rules about taking money out of the country. She really needs $2000 waiting for her when she arrives in England. There’s no way it could be organised, I suppose?” For a moment Adamson was too surprised to speak. Tahi was clearly asking for a bribe. There was really no reason for him to be surprised – he knew that bribery was normal business practice in Zalesia, even though there were strict laws against it. Any company representative caught offering bribes to government officials risked up to five years’ imprisonment. But he had always previously thought that Tahi was different from the majority of Zalesian officials – that was why he had become so friendly with him. So far in Zalesia, Adamson had managed never to do anything that could be considered more than a small favour in order to win a contract. He did not believe in bribery, and certainly had no wish to spend any time in a Zalesian jail. Tahi obviously noticed Adamson’s confusion. “Don’t worry,” he said. “If it’s a problem for you, there are others I can ask.” His meaning was clear. If Eduquip didn’t pay the bribe, another company would.
A. Mark the statements as True (T) or False (F).
1. Tahi probably works at the Ministry of Education.
2. Having a personal contact doesn’t play a role in getting a contract in Zalesia.
3. If you live in Zalesia, you can take a great sum of money out of the country.
4. If a company representative is caught getting a bribe, he is sent to prison.
5. Tony was sure Tahi would ask for a bribe.
6. Tony doesn’t approve of bribery.
7. Except for some small favours, Tony had done nothing until then to win a contract. 8. Tahi implied that the company that paid the bribe would get the contract.
B. 1. What does the company Tony works for produce?
2. Why was the contract so important for the company?
3. Why was it less possible for Tony’s company to get the contract than the bigger companies who were interested?
4. What reasons did Tony give while trying to persuade Tahi to help them get the contract?
5. In what way did Tony think Tahi was different from other Zalesian officials?