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Line Drawing Method – Bribery

The engineering profession is a very important one to the development of society in present times. When people think of Engineers they automatically think of problem solvers with great technical knowledge. For engineers to be effective they must have confidence in them not only their own but also other people’s. For this confidence to exist an engineer should keep him self out of cases where there is a conflict of interest. Getting involved in situations where there are conflicts of interest can undermine the confidence in the engineer. The code of ethics mentions: 1.1 …behave with integrity and objectivity and 1.7 …with impartiality, uninfluenced by any personal considerations . These parts of the code of conduct are places where you would use the line drawing method. The line drawing method is a way for engineers and other professionals to stay out of cases where there is a conflict of interest and therefore keep confidence in them.


The line drawing method involves a few short steps and it is very simple to use. The first step is to look at a paradigm case of your problem and a paradigm case of when the problem does not occur. A paradigm case is one that serves as a model of the problem you are trying to solve. When coming up with the paradigm case a person should think of the worst possible case of the problem they are trying to solve and a case where this problem does not occur and come up with relevant features to judge the problem. The next step is to draw a table with the paradigm case of the problem on one side and the paradigm case where this problem does not occur on the other side under the relevant features you chose leaving a space in the middle like in the fig1. The next step is then to decide where in between the two cases your case is and mark that on the table for each the features of the problem. The next and last step is to draw a line where you marked each of the features of the problem and finally to make a decision.  The decision making part is still the most important one.


In this paragraph I am going to use the case study we were given for our presentation to further explain the line drawing method. In the case study I was given, the problem was to identify if something was a bribe or not. The problem states:

John is employed at Bluestone Ltd. as the senior engineer. He regularly meets with vendors who offer to supply Bluestone with their ongoing needed services and parts.  John discovers that one of the vendors, Peter, is an avid golfer like himself. They begin comparing notes on their favourite golf courses. John says that he has always wanted to play at the Cherryvale Golf Resort but has never had the opportunity because it is a private club. Peter says that his company have a corporate membership there for years and he can arrange a guest visit for John for that weekend, “I can easily organise for us to have a game on the company, we’ll even get a steak and few pints afterwards out of it”.  Should John accept this offer?

The problem for John is that he is offered to play a game of golf and because his company is buying from the company that is supplying him with this opportunity it could cause a conflict of interest for John. The line drawing method can be used in this case for John to make his decision. The first step is to come up with the paradigm case of bribery and the paradigm case of not bribery and the features of bribery. The next step is to draw the table and then the line and finally make the decision. The table we drew as part of this problem is shown in fig1.

drawing the line                                                                                             fig1

The gift size in our problem was quite small so the slider is close to the not bribery paradigm. The timing in this problem is after the decision, Johns company already is already supplied by the company making the offer. The reason for him to accept the gift is personal only. The responsibility for the decision regarding this company supplying John’s company is not solely Johns and when they were to renew the contract John would not be able to make this decision on his own. The product quality and product cost are irrelevant min this case as Johns company is already buying these products.


When drawing the line in this case study you find that the line is closer to the paradigm not bribery thus we advised John that it would be ok to take the gift but he must be careful if the company wants to change suppliers or they want to redo the contract John should act impartially to avoid conflict of interest. The line drawing method is an effective one when making these kinds of decisions. It is important though that you are honest when positioning the sliders between the two paradigm cases as if you are not honest this method could give you any answer you want and that is not the point of this method. 

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