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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - SISHA internal audit identifies no wrongdoing

SISHA internal audit identifies no wrongdoing

Anti-human trafficking NGO SISHA announced the results of its internal audit yesterday, attempting to clear financial misconduct allegations made earlier this year.

Retired police detective and founder of the NGO Steve Morrish came under fire in August after two of the charity’s former employees leaked information regarding alleged mismanagement of hundreds of thousands of earmarked, donated funds.

According to SISHA, audit company KMPG’s investigation found there had “been no theft or misappropriation of funds by Mr Morrish. There were no inappropriate payments to relatives of Mr Morrish”.

Both Morrish and SISHA’s directors have stood by the explanation that funding was legitimately reallocated to pay the CEO after a four-year, self-opted furlough and to cover “operational expenses within SISHA”.

“This whole episode has cut a very deep wound in me,” Morrish said. “The level of betrayal has been very hard to accept and it has made me question my belief in the work I was doing to assist
exploited children.”

Morrish resigned from SISHA in August after the former interim executive director of SISHA USA, Sean Looney, made public a letter to the board containing a Skype argument over appropriate uses of funding.

In the transcribed conversation, Morrish demands Looney transfer scholarship funds to cover the July payroll and administrative costs or be fired.

“Mr Morrish is effectively running something akin to a not-for-profit Ponzi scheme,” wrote Looney, who the company promoted to an executive role after just a few months on board as an intern.

“I don't want to be the one that answers to Gina Rinehart when she asks about her missing 650,000 dollars … and the disposition of the programs and the building that money was supposed to fund, for which SISHA still owes almost all services.”

Rinehart, the world’s fourth-wealthiest woman and a major backer of the Cambodian-Australian NGO, resigned from the organisation’s advisory board last summer.

According to SISHA’s announcement yesterday, “Mrs Rinehart has confirmed that she is supportive of the work that SHISA undertakes and reaffirms her continuing support.”

Rinehart’s PR team declined to comment on the investigation’s results.

SISHA’s announcement did acknowledge that a planned women’s crisis centre in Battambang fell through after donated funds had to be used for other financial liabilities.

“We have been in regular dialogue with key donors regarding these matters and they are aware of all transactions,” SISHA CEO Ron Dunne said in an email yesterday.

Morrish dismissed the whole debacle as simply a case of “two former interns” who gained access to restricted information and raised a red flag after they were fired.

“This was not an act of whistle-blowing. This was two people who had been leaking information to bloggers for some time,” he said.

An email address for Looney appeared to no longer be in service yesterday.



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Anthony Simms's picture

Very pleasing to see this outcome. The actions of Mr Looney and those who supported him were among of the most diabolical cases of betrayal, poor judgement and complete lack of respect that I've ever witnessed. I hope their actions haunt them for a long time.

Sean Looney's picture

I think you owe it to the public, whom you are paid to inform, to do better research. I, Sean Looney, never released any documentation to anyone, I can only assume it was leaked by others still within the organization after my termination. Your statement to the contrary is irresponsible and without merit. Additionally, I had been a paid employee, 'Operations and Monitoring & Evaluation Manager', for SISHA for 6 months before being promoted to Interm-Exec Director, which was after 6 months as an M&E consultant, beginning in August of 2012. This is why the journalist standard requires two sources verifying one another. I have never made public any of my internal emails to the board of directors, it was a matter to be handled internally, with the donor having been made aware of the concerns. As the interm-exec director of SISHA USA I was prevey to all board material, all budgets, and all obligation of service relative to philanthropic money donate. I never once spoke to a blogger or passed along information in either a formal or informal manner. I expected the board of directors of SISHA USA, the board of directors of SISHA, and the donor to handle this, and it was with full confidence that this issue was left with them.Mr. Morrish's conduct is unethical at best and any attempt to obfuscate this is just so much hyperbole. I encourage all of those interested, including this news publication, to do their research prior to parroting a self-interested narrative which will only serve to continue an ongoing abuse of the not for profit ethic with in the development community. Mr. Morrish does serious harm to all of those trying to do good philanthropic work. His desire to live in luxury on the back of victims is deplorable and should not be swept under the rug. Shame on you, shame on all of you who allow this sort of conduct to continue. I cannot speak for all involved, my intention was only to alert the board and the donor to my concerns for the abuse of philanthropic funds donated to SISHA to aid those victimized through exploitation and human trafficking, concerns for which I was terminated. I was terminated for refusing to transfer money from an Americna registered NGO to a Australian registered NGO for a purpose outside of that for which the funds were received and authorized for use by SISHA USA’s board. It was a legally black and white. After this I reported my concerns to both SISHA’s and SISHA USA’s boards or directors, and made the donor aware of a dearth of funding to continue the program, so the donor might make sure the scholarship girls and the subsidized orphanages did not see a laps in service despite SISHA’s poor financial management and inability to keep their end of the agreement.

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