Your Questions: Answered - Written by Barry & Richard on Tuesday, June 26, 2012 0:20 - 1 Comment
Your questions answered: Peter Lloyd, CEO Mabey Group looks at requests from Foreign Public Officials
We are entering a new market and hoping to sell our products to the government. Our business development director has secured a meeting with senior members of the relevant ministry.
They have asked that we provide a presentation at a conference facility in a hotel and that we pay for the cost of room hire. The presentation and subsequent meeting will probably span two days and some of the attendees have requested that we pay accomodation expenses so they can stay the night. None of this seems unreasonable. Do you agree?
My immediate reaction is that two days to present products is excessive, but assuming that the complexity justifies this timeframe then I would want to ask a number of questions:
How expensive is this hotel and why has it been chosen, for example is it in a holiday destination?
Is this normal practice within this ministry? In my experience of current practice it would be unusual for many government organisations.
For the people who are likely to attend would they see this hotel as simply normal business or a ‘treat’?
In my experience it is now normal practice for government organisations to be unwilling to risk accusations of bias and therefore often they want to pay for their own travel and accommodation, but here we have a request, very definitely a red flag. I would find it normal to pay for the conference facilities and probably reasonable food and drink, but accommodation, flights and other entertainment would all cause me concern, although if these concerns can be addressed I would not completely exclude offering this level of hospitality.
My suggestions are as follows:-
Push back on what the company will pay, especially the accommodation, and gauge the reaction.
Check on normal practice in this country.
Check on normal practice in this and other ministries.
Gauge the ‘treat’ factor, would this be seen as buying favour?
Then, if this level of entertainment can be justified under your ‘gifts and hospitality’ policy and measured against the Bribery Act, I would add a final stage to make the entire event transparent. Write to the Minister to confirm that you are going to offer this conference including accommodation, etc. to this group of government officers and request written permission to proceed. I hope that this helps, as usual there are no simple answers.