Acceptance of Advantages (Chief Executive's Permission) Notice
Under section 3 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance ("POBO"), the act of a civil servant accepting an advantage without permission in itself constitutes a criminal offence. The prosecution need not prove a corrupt motive. The spirit behind section 3 is to prevent civil servants from falling into the "sweetening process" by accepting small advantages or favour at the outset.
To help cushion the impact of section 3 on the private lives of civil servants as ordinary citizens and to avoid unwitting breaches, the Acceptance of Advantages (Chief Executive's Permission) Notice ("AAN") has been put in place. It gives general permission for civil servants to accept advantages that fall outside four restricted categories (namely gift, discount, loan of money, and passage).
For advantages which fall within the four restricted categories, general permission has also been given in the AAN for a civil servant to accept them in certain circumstances (such as a wedding gift within the prescribed monetary limit presented by a close friend or a discount which is equally available on equal terms to persons who are not civil servants). In other circumstances, he must obtain special permission for accepting an advantage which falls within the restricted categories. The AAN also sets out the approving authority from whom special permission should be sought.
An officer who solicits or accepts an advantage which is permitted under the AAN will not be liable to prosecution under section 3 of the POBO. However, he may still be liable to disciplinary action if the solicitation or acceptance of the advantage has led, or could have led, to a conflict between his private interest and official duties. Examples of what an officer is well advised to avoid include acceptance of an advantage from a close relative who has official dealings with the department in which the civil servant works.
Nor does compliance with section 3 exempt a civil servant from other provisions in the POBO. He remains liable to prosecution under section 4 of the POBO if he solicits or accepts an advantage as an inducement for abusing his office.