• Thu
  • Jul 10, 2014
  • Updated: 1:50am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Consultant in TV licence row was right to quit

Robert Chua says hired consultants fail professional standards when they openly criticise their client's decision, as one did recently in TV licence row

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 7:22pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 February, 2014, 5:03pm

It should come as no surprise that Jenny Ng Pui-ying, the consultant who said the government had misquoted her company's assessment of the TV market during the row over free-to-air licences last year, has finally done the honourable thing and quit her job.

Clearly, Ng, the managing partner of Value Partners, must have realised she had committed the cardinal sin of speaking out against one's client, and that this was uncalled for. I see no logical reason for politicians to demand an explanation for what seems to be common sense prevailing.

Why do some consultants expect a client to accept their findings and recommendations as the final decision? In Ng's case, the government was free to decide on its own how many TV licences were awarded. Just what role did Ng think she or the company played? Was she the ultimate decision-maker, or was it the government, which paid for the report? Is the client obliged to discuss with a consultancy firm it has hired whatever it has on its mind?

Was it right for Ng to speak out and say her company did not agree with the government's decision? If consultants who don't like their client's decisions always did that, they'd probably never be hired again. After all, Ng wasn't challenged by the government to defend her work.

Personally, as any good consultant should, I will tell it as it is when anyone asks for my advice on a project within my scope of expertise. And that includes telling them to forget it, or suggesting an alternative if I have one, if I don't believe the idea will succeed. Then, it's up to them to decide what to do; I don't necessarily expect them to follow my advice. It is their investment at stake, after all.

A consultant's role is to give recommendations to the best of their ability. That's it.

Like all businesses, consultants need to sell themselves and their services. Very often, that means many will choose not to discourage a client, even if they feel a proposed business plan is flawed from the outset and will never work. To do so might mean not getting the contract.

Of course, a good consultant would not mislead a client just to secure a contract. But it's a fact that most commissioning officers prefer to appoint a consultancy firm that is likely to agree with their project, often for self-serving purposes; it makes them look good and may even help them keep their job.

If, at the start of the bidding process, the commissioning officer is a management executive, any consultancy that speaks up against a project is more likely to be excluded. If the commissioning officer is the owner or shareholder, such a consultancy may be asked to provide a one-off report detailing why they think the project will fail, and maybe offering an alternative. The client may then use this report as a reference against other firms' recommendations.

At the end of the day, it must be remembered that the client, ultimately, makes the final decision. Consultants may not like it, but they have to be professional and live with it.

Veteran broadcaster Robert Chua was the founding production manager and creator/executive producer of Enjoy Yourself Tonight at TVB, Hong Kong's first terrestrial TV station, and founder of satellite TV station CETV

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This article is now closed to comments

hilton.wong.75
Good morning! I am a 19 years old student studying in a legal school. Simultaneously, I am a new screenwriter, actor, lyricist from Chongqing, China. I was raised in Hong Kong, China!
Here are my opinions:
Sorry. I do believe that only when the consultant has evidence to prove that can openly denounce the clients in order to fulfill legal spirit. If not, this action is not professional!
No matter in Civil Law or Common Law System, before denouncing something openly, please show concrete evidence. Please imagine that if the aforementioned spirit can be ignored, what will happen---
Anyone can denounce anything with his or her own beliefs that may ruin the society right?
In a nutshell, the consultant is too naive and not professional.
Also, though in some case, I agree that the consultants can denounce the clients, it is not common.
If you have no evidence, why do you think that you have the rights to do so?
Such an action cant be glorified by anyone.
What do you think?
Also, Elephant is your real name? Why don't we make friends and have some deeper discussions in this issue? I really hope to learn more!
Thanks for your attention!
elephant887
Dear Hilton, I am really surprised by your sophistication in ingratiating despite you have quoted too many theories at your learning stage.
For my innocence, would you quote me the Civil Law or Common Law which stipulates that concrete evidence must be proved before denouncing something openly? I do want to know what concrete evidence you have proved before your denouncing the consultant naïve and unprofessional.
For my perspective, the consultant is obligated to raise an objection to her comment being abusively misquoted. In fact, the objection had only revealed the misquotation, but hadn't caused any harmless consequence to the license competitors.
By contrast, the objection had made the officials defending their misconducts by means of a variety of unreasonable explanations including the lacking budget of the failed competitor to maintain broadcasting, which should have virtually made ill effects to the competitor.
Do you think the officials are eligible to offer such a misquotation? Have you thought about the consequence caused by the unceasing misquotation? I do think the society would be ruined by the consistent discord broken out between the advantaged and disadvantaged.
At last, I don’t agree your theory that anyone denounces anything with his/her beliefs would ruin the society. Do you think people should not criticize their discontent in their own beliefs in our civilized city? Who can define the credibility and authenticity of those beliefs as well as yours?
elephant887
I am sorry for failing to highlight the main points of our discussion. As a matter of fact, I have already agreed your view that a client should have the ultimate right to make decisions. I must emphasize that I didn’t have talking about the credibility of the consultancy firm nor paying concerns about who should be awarded for the license.
But I have recently contradicted your view that a paid specialist must not raise any objection to the hirer no matter his/her recommendations being misquoted by the hirer for an inappropriate intention.
Though the misquotation would not constitute a breach of laws, unarguably the misquoting behavior should be unacceptable.
Do you think this quotation is decent that I publicly announce I would not support the government but XXTV after a discussion with you Mr. Chua?
hilton.wong.75
Good morning! I am a 19 years old student studying in a legal school. Simultaneously, I am a new screenwriter, actor, lyricist from Chongqing, China. I was raised in Hong Kong, China!
Here are my opinions:
Sorry. I do believe that only when the consultant has evidence to prove that can openly denounce the clients in order to fulfill legal spirit. If not, this action is not professional!
No matter in Civil Law or Common Law System, before denouncing something openly, please show concrete evidence. Please imagine that if the aforementioned spirit can be ignored, what will happen---
Anyone can denounce anything with his or her own beliefs that may ruin the society right?
In a nutshell, the consultant is too naive and not professional.
Also, though in some case, I agree that the consultants can denounce the clients, it is not common.
If you have no evidence, why do you think that you have the rights to do so?
Such an action cant be glorified by anyone.
What do you think?
Also, Elephant is your real name? Why don't we make friends and have some deeper discussions in this issue? I really hope to learn more!
Thanks for your attention!
robert.chua.524
I am sorry that I firmly stick by my views because those that disagreed with me did not consider that it is a ‘matter of fact’ that NOT all consultant’s findings and recommendations are always correct. It is a matter of one's personal judgement and opinion. If all Consultancy Company’s findings and recommendations are automatically correct then why does one need to appoint a Consultancy company amongst many? The fact is that they can sometimes be wrong, and when they are wrong who pays for their mistakes? Not them but their client. Consultancy companies are usually not held financially liable for making any wrong findings and recommendations even when their client suffers financial losses as a result of taking their findings. So who should make the final decision, the client or the Consultancy Company? A client can agree or disagree with the Consultancy Company’s findings and recommendations because taking any wrong decision is on the Client’s head and not on the Consultancy Company. I hope this would change the stand of the ‘die-hard’ supporters of HKTV and Jenny Ng.
Tkorunner
You are not listening to others. The point is NOT whether the government agree with the conclusion of the report or not. The point is NOT whether the conclusion of the report is valid or not. The point is whether the government MISQUOTE. The point is whether the government TELLING LIES.
ykbc
Yes, it is the client that has the final say. It has always been. But why has our government spent so much money in recent years to hire all sorts of consultancies to do all sorts of studies? Because our government always wants to use consultancy reports to defense its decisions, especially those indefensible ones. Normally those consultancies are "professional" (read compliant) enough to think of all sorts of fanciful grounds to support the government's pre-determined decisions. But in this free TV licence saga, there came a real professional consultant who did not want the government to discredit her and her professionalism by distorting the findings. She spoke out, and then had to "resign" from her company.
elephant887
It should be a sorrow that Mr. Chua, a veteran broadcaster, has given such a comment on the licensing row in his obviously faulty perception.
Mr. Chua has only reiterated the client, Hong Kong Government, would have the ultimate right to decide on which competitor be awarded license regardless of the report from the consultant, despite it was paid by public fund.
What is the need of the government flippantly announced the contrarian decision was attributed to the consultant recommendation? In fact, the quoted recommendation is inconsistent with the consultant report. Worryingly, the blunder plunged the integrity and credibility of the government was plunged to a new low.
I do agree with Mr. Chua that consultants must not unreasonably revealed their findings and commendations publicly without the client’s consent if the findings and commendations were not being abused to defend the government’s bureaucratic deals. Nevertheless, I sincerely praised Jenny Ng, the consultant, for her highest integrity and courage to reveal the truth disregarding her consultancy firm may never be hired by the government again.
Once those consultancy firms preferably recruited by government were obligated to confine their findings and recommendations to public, the bureaucratic government officials can arbitrarily make any ineffectual or myopic decisions by means of shifting the accountabilities to those benefit-oriented scapegoats.
XYZ
Not so fast, Mr. Chua.
.
Did the government misquote (misrepresent?) her firm's assessment of the TV market, as you state in your opening paragraph, or did the government simply make a decision at variance with the consultants' recommendation? Which is it?
.
There is a big difference. She has every right to object to the first act, if that is what occurred.
.
 
 
 
 
 

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