A United States federal audit is being held into the spending of aid money by
the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation in Cambodia.
The move follows
months of allegations, made to the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, of mismanagement or
misappropriation of money.
The Post has previously reported that some
form of inquiry was expected. A full audit has now been decided on.
Embassy spokesman Frank Huffman said the audit was being conducted by the
Inspector-General's Office of the USAID agency, which has granted $4.5 million
to VVAF's Cambodian operations.
He would not comment further, except to
say that the investigation "was still in a Washington phase" and "we have no
idea when it might be brought to some sort of a conclusion."
that an initial proposal to contract a private auditing firm to do an audit in
Cambodia was dropped in favor of a federal audit conducted from the
It is understood that bank records are being subpoenaed as the audit
Separate sets of allegations have been made to USAID in
Phnom Penh by former or current VVAF staff over the past year.
them involve payments which were to former staff's bank accounts by VVAF's head
office in the US.
Former VVAF Cambodian director Tom Leckinger has
confirmed to the Post that he was paid a monthly $5,000 "consultant's fee" for
some months after he resigned, when asked to, last August.
the fee was to prepare a proposal for further USAID funding, and he was chosen
to do the work because he knew the procedures involved.
that VVAF Cambodian staff, including Leckinger's replacement, Bill Herod, were
not told of the payments. Concern first arose when similar payments, to other
people, came to light and VVAF denied making them.
Other allegations have
been made about the construction of a new building at VVAF's high-profile Kien
Khleang center - which employs disabled people to manufacture wheelchairs and
artificial limbs - near Phnom Penh.
Estimates of the construction cost
range from $190,000 to $250,000, but some sources maintain that some $100,000
was spent before the building's foundations were completed
VVAF's Washington-based executive-director, Bobby Muller, and
its financial controller, Dick Howard, visited Cambodia in February to discuss
the allegations with US Embassy officials.
At the time, Muller described
the allegations as unfounded and insane, and welcomed the prospect of any sort
Leckinger has also categorically denied any knowledge
of misappropriation of money, and welcomed an inquiry.
VVAF has been
wracked by sackings and internal disputes for a year. Among those who have been
sacked or asked to resign include its first Cambodian director Ron Podlaski -
who has made wide-ranging allegations to USAID and to the Post - and his
successors, Tom Leckinger and Bill Herod.
Herod was asked to resign in
early February after he refused an order to sack his deputy, Phil Brady. Both
Herod and Brady have declined Post invitations to comment but are understood to
be critical of VVAF management practices.