ACU Tosses Complaint Against ActionAid

The Anti-Corruption Unit on Thursday dismissed a complaint filed by a Cambodian NGO against the local arm of the international humanitarian group ActionAid for allegedly embezzling $3 million, the unit’s chairman said.

The complaint was initially submitted in December by Chee Boreth, director of the Children’s Development Association (CDA), which received funding from ActionAid but was cut off in 2015 following an investigation into fraud allegations, according to Caroline McCausland, ActionAid’s country director.

 Anti-Corruption Unit Chairman Om Yentieng speaks during a meeting at the unit’s Phnom Penh headquarters yesterday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Anti-Corruption Unit Chairman Om Yentieng speaks during a meeting at the unit’s Phnom Penh headquarters yesterday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Mr. Boreth’s complaint accuses ActionAid of misusing $3 million and spending part of it on “projects against the Cambodian government,” including political protests and training in human rights, ACU Chairman Om Yentieng said during a meeting at the unit’s Phnom Penh headquarters on Thursday.

He said, however, that the complaint did not fall under the ACU’s jurisdiction because it did not involve allegations against a government official or body.

“It’s not corruption, but it’s embezzlement,” he said, adding that donors to ActionAid were free to file a court complaint if they believed that funds had been misused.

Ms. McCausland said the decision to throw out the complaint was appropriate.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy to fraud and believe the accusations were a retaliation against us for leading a global audit—with seven other donors including the Australian government—following a fraud complaint from a staff member of CDA to ActionAid,” she said in an email.

She said that in July 2014, a CDA staff member told ActionAid that CDA was committing extensive fraud with money from its international donors, including “double charging, misuse of assets, nepotism, and false documentation.”

She said an investigation of the allegations by several donors to CDA—including ActionAid, The Asia Foundation, World Vision and the Australian government—led ActionAid to permanently cut funding to the NGO.

Mr. Boreth could not be reached on Thursday. His deputy, Boreyroth Smeun, said he was unsure whether CDA would continue to pursue its case against ActionAid and declined to comment further.

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