When parents give a gift to their kid’s teacher or principal, when is it just a token of appreciation and when is it considered a bribery attempt?
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has published a Sample Code of Conduct for Managers and Staff of Kindergartens to advise them on how to handle gifts from parents, Sing Tao Daily reports.
The ICAC revealed that it received five complaints on suspected corruption at kindergartens in the first six months of 2016, including those involving procurements and favors to students.
By comparison, the anti-graft body received only three complaints for the whole of 2015.
As there are nearly 1,000 kindergartens in Hong Kong, the government will spend as much as HK$6.7 billion a year when the Education Bureau rolls out free kindergarten education in the 2017-2018 academic year.
The anti-graft body’s principal corruption prevention officer Yvonne Mui Yee-yu said unlike primary and secondary schools, kindergartens would need to rely more on parental support to look after schoolchildren.
Such a situation creates a closer relationship between parents and the teaching staff.
While it is understandable that parents would want to ensure that their children are well taken care of, there are actions and behaviors that could be considered improper or even break the law.
Some parents, for example, could offer kindergarten teachers rice dumplings during the Dragon Boat Festival or souvenirs from their travel abroad, Mui said.
There are also cases in which parents who are engaged in some business who offer complimentary services or discounts for products that they sell to kindergartens.
Moreover, parents often offer gifts to teachers or principals upon their children’s graduation from kindergartens, Apple Daily reported.
During some special occasions, such as a school manager getting married or retiring, it is common for the teaching staff to offer gifts in cash or kind.
This could potentially create conflicts of interests, as the gift recipients have a say over their subordinates’ promotion and work assignments, the newspaper said.
According to the sample code of conduct, teachers who receive food items from parents could share them with their students, while gifts such as stationery, paintings and trophies can be used or exhibited on campus.
Gift items that do not have high cash value could be used as prizes in school activities or competitions.
It is also suggested that teaching staff who receive complimentary goods and services make a declaration of interest if they spot any possible conflicts such as their role in student admission or procurement of goods and services.
The code also recommends a value ceiling for gifts offered by subordinates to their superiors during special occasions.
The ICAC said it will consider compiling guidelines for kindergartens for student admission, procurement of goods and services and campus repair works.
The Education Bureau said it has issued a circular in July to participating kindergartens under the Free Quality Kindergarten Education scheme, urging them to adhere to the ICAC code of conduct.
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