Bribery in the form of gifts


Al-Watan newspaper

AN Asian agent of a Saudi contractor came to my office while I was working in a hospital in the region as his company wanted to win the hospital’s operation contract. Since the company’s meeting with contractors, the man seems to have pledged that he would do everything possible to win the golden deal.

The hospital management had explained to the contracting company that the specifications of the electronic system they have presented did not match the hospital’s requirements. But, two days after the company's meeting with contractors, I saw an Asian sitting in my office confidently without my permission.

When asked why he entered the office, he said to me he was staying close to the hospital and thought of bringing some sandwiches and coffee to have breakfast with me. I could not believe his words. I asked him to repeat what he had said and he repeated the same sentence without any shame. I told him to get out of the office with his sandwiches immediately before I call the security.

A week later, the same agent peeped into my office through its door with a broad smile suggesting something important was about to happen. He told me that his boss, the contracting company’s owner, conveys his Salam and has thanked me for previously awarding the contract while addressing the company’s meeting, and that the boss had asked him to hand over a gift to me.

The agent then pushed the door and entered my office without my permission and he looked extremely happy. The man then put the latest version of a Samsung cell phone, which singer Asala used to promote, on my table. He had also brought a brand new Dell laptop as another gift. I remember very well how I felt insulted and how my heartbeat accelerated following this incident. I became extremely angry and asked him not to enter my office again.

That day I wrote a complaint and e-mailed it to my direct boss, explaining all the incidents. I waited with the hope that he would call me to his office. The next day I went to his office and inquired about the letter. I told him that I considered the gifts as bribe to win the contract but the boss laughed sarcastically.

I still remember very well what he told me: “How can you describe this as bribe? If the gift was a Mercedes or Rolls-Royce or transfer of money to a bank account, we could have called it bribery.”

His response did not surprise me as I remembered what he did two years ago. He asked me to change some figures in the monthly report before submitting it to the director general. When I refused to do it saying it was forgery, he accused me of being stubborn and inflexible and that it had caused him problems. I kept events of that day in my mind and he lectured me on the difference between flexibility and integrity in work, and the importance of not mixing them!

A week later, the company’s owner himself came to my office and said that he came to apologize and make things in order after it was corrupted by his agent. After changing his headdress’ position he said to me that if I did not like the gift, there were other options. He then showed me a catalog of other cell phone models and smiled mischievously. He later took out a rosary and started touching its beads while praising the glory of Allah. I felt that I was about to lose my self-confidence and back down from my stand, especially after knowing that my boss does not consider every gift as bribe. I was overwhelmed by the sudden state of confusion. I kept mum when I thought whether I should call my boss, or choose from the catalog what I liked.

After a few minutes of silence he extended a credit card and asked me to use it generously to meet my needs. He also explained to me that they usually give such special gifts to their privileged customers. That phrase revealed to me that his money is nothing but bribe. I threw the card and expelled him from my office with pride.

Instead of leaving, that man stood in the corridor of my office raising his voice, expressing his displeasure and calling my response uncivilized. Hearing his loud voice my boss came out and apologized to him and asked him to relax in his office!

The next day, the boss summoned me to give me a long lecture. He advised me that my intentions should be pure, I should not let my emotions control me. While he was talking to me I saw the box of that Samsung cell phone, which was on my table two days ago, in the garbage container near his table. I saw the new mobile phone lying next to the old one. I pointed to that phone and said: “This is bribery.” He replied: “No, it’s a gift.” I went out of his office angrily.

The following day employees were circulating the news that I would be transferred for showing disrespect to the boss.