Business Times

Corruption: Even accepting a pen at a conference can be considered a bribe

By Quintus Perera

In this country almost every act or service could depend on bribery and often accusations are levelled at even highly placed public figures as involved in corrupt practices. But, even accepting a ballpoint pen at a conference could amount to bribery was the advice given by a Fellow of the engineering profession and a prominent academic to the largest number -305 - of engineers who graduated.

This was the advice given by Prof S B S Abayakoon, Vice-Chancellor, University of Peradeniya delivering the keynote address as the Guest of Honour at the Induction and Graduation Ceremony 2011 of the Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka held this week at Waters Edge, Battaramulla.

Prof Abayakoon who chose to speak on “Looking About Ourselves” - of engineers themselves – said “Everything you get for which you do not have to pay is a bribe” and advised “Don’t accept free tickets for the cricket ODIs as it amounts to bribery”.

Indicating that bribery is more serious than thefts he went on to list out some of the more common acts of bribery such as: door prizes at a conference; raffle prize by a supplier or distributor; any gift of excessive value (supervisor must be notified);fare lower than commercially available; cash rebates; tickets to sporting events or other entertainment given as an outright gift where the supplier does not intend to accompany the employee; sports team sponsorship by supplier; extravagant dinner or entertainment and any gift, favour, hospitality or entertainment that could in any way create a feeling of obligation or could compromise professional judgment.

He also listed out more serious acts of thefts and warned the engineers not to get involved in them.
He said that engineering came into existence as far back as the beginning of human life and the first move is the invention of the plough, noting that today ‘all get to do what they do because of the engineers'.

Prof Abayakoon said that the basics for human survival are air, food and water and then comes clothes and shelter. Today, a few grow or kill their food and no one goes to the river to drink water, while manufacture of clothes and building shelter is again the job of few. Yet some involve in doing some of these basic tasks for themselves and fall in a mess.

He said that earlier everybody needed to know everything, all men needed to know hunting and climbing trees and all women needed to know how to knit and fetch water. With humans creating tools engineering dawned and with the invention of energy some could produce more than their need and the rest then do not have to do those tasks but involve in doing something else.

He said that in the new millennium engineering education undergoes change worldwide and engineers must be educated on knowledge based education and value added products. There is also worldwide movement towards Information Technology to education. He said “We must, however, be very careful in replacing hands on experience with computer solutions and computers should be our slaves rather than our masters”. He said that the practical component in schools was gradually removed culminating in taking away of practical examinations at the GCE (A/L).

He said that research in the western countries have shown that the vast availability of computers, software and the Internet is actually having a ‘Dumb Down’ effect on students. If the computers are not used wisely , Prof Abayakoon warned that the performance of engineers would gradually decline. He suggested independent thinking or the practicing engineers will not have the necessary ability to interpret, verify and confirm the results of their work.

S B Dissanayake, Minister of Higher Education speaking as Chief Guest elaborated the government’s stance on free education and to what extent the country’s education would be handled by the private sector while Prof Ananda Jayawardane, President, IESL spoke on the history and the present tasks of IESL.

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