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Ethical dilemmas: Thank you or bribe

In this series we confront readers with ethical dilemmas and ask: what would you have done?


A medium sized company had a number of systems in place, none of which were compatible. The board of directors decided that this could not go on and asked for a comprehensive assessment of the company’s computer needs.

Following a competitive tender, our versatile consultant Antonia won the work and, following extensive inquiries and assessments of the situation and some serious thought, recommended that all the equipment be replaced by one system. The board agreed to this proposal and invited Antonia to prepare a specification of requirements.

After another thoroughly professional piece of work, the specification of requirements was agreed by management and the board, and an invitation to tender issued to a number of suppliers. Because of her expertise and reputation with the client, the board asked Antonia to recommend which tender should be selected.

After carrying out an evaluation process, Antonia identified one supplier that best met the specification within the budgets available, and the contract was then awarded to that supplier.


And so a number of assignments ended with a highly satisfied client.

Some weeks later Antonia received a surprise delivery of the latest tablet computer. She was not expecting it as she had not ordered it. She was somewhat alarmed and searched for some evidence as to where it had come from and why.

She eventually found a card which indicated that it was a gift from the chosen supplier in recognition of her recommendation that they should win the tender.

Antonia was in a quandary. This was not a pen or some other token; it was substantial and had it been made before her recommendation, would have amounted to a bribe but this was after her recommendation had been accepted- at least she knew that.

If she accepted this gift, what would the client think? Could she ever make an objective recommendation in the future? Should the price of the equipment not have been better deducted as a discount from her client’s price? These and other questions crowded her mind. Should she accept the equipment and say nothing or send the tablet back with a polite note ‘thanks, but no thanks’?

What should she do?

You can read a commentary based on readers’ observations and what had happened in reality here.

Thursday 23rd July 2020
The Thinker statue