Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Global Fund’s probe saw little cooperation

Global Fund’s probe saw little cooperation

Global Fund’s probe saw little cooperation

Financial records the Global Fund requested for its investigation into widespread corruption in health grants to Cambodia were withheld and censored by grant recipients, the probe found, suggesting a systematic attempt to cover up wrongdoing.

Out of a total of $220.3 million worth of expenses the fund’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) requested to review, documentation covering only $86.9 million was made available, the report notes.

When accounts and other records were provided for review, some were completely empty and “selected and critical elements” of the files were removed, indicating a concerted effort by some grantees to hide evidence of malfeasance.

Purchase orders, receipts, delivery documents, bidders’ quotes, requests for proposals, contract awards and invoices were missing from files provided by the Ministry of Health, National Malaria Center (CNM), National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD Control (NCHADS) and NGO umbrella group MEDiCAM, covering about $17 million in grants.

The National Bank of Cambodia, Acleda Bank Plc and the Foreign Trade Bank of Cambodia also withheld bank statements from the OIG for more than a year. When the statements were finally handed over in June 2012, the names of recipients of money had been redacted.

The report also highlights attempts by individuals associated with the Ministry of Health and the CNM to intimidate OIG staff and locally hired Cambodian contractors and consultants, which prompted the OIG to heighten security.

Witnesses who cooperated with the years-long investigation, the report continued, expressed concerns of “retaliation” if they were named.

Global Fund spokesman Seth Faison said in an email that the fund was still following up on the investigation, but declined to comment on the missing files and reports of intimidation.

“We take these issues very seriously and are following up on several aspects,” he wrote.

Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng, NCHADS director Mean Chhivun, MEDiCAM executive director Sin Somuny and officials at the CNM did not respond to requests for comment.

The fund on December 9 threatened to suspend or reduce more than $100 million of grants to Cambodia if the Ministry of Health, NCHADS and MEDiCAM fail to meet a 30-day deadline to return funds identified as “misused” by the probe.

Only three out of eight private companies contracted to provide services and equipment to the NCHADS that the Fund approached for its investigation agreed to be interviewed.

Medicom Co Ltd, Bright Diamond, Castle Angkor Pitch Co, Indace International and Pharmacy Sophanna declined to be interviewed by the OIG, according to the report. However, two of the firms told the Post yesterday they were either unaware of the request or claimed to no longer receive grants from the fund.

Jean-Yves Catry, managing director of Medicom, said he was not aware of any request for interview from the fund relating to its investigation.

“We never received anything, and I did not see anything about my company in the [newspaper] reports. We have won many contracts from the Global Fund before,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Pharmacy Sophanna claimed that the company no longer worked directly with Global Fund grants, having outsourced the contracts to a firm based in China.

“The last time we met with the Global Fund was in 2005. But now we have stopped [communications]. We don’t work with them anymore, because we have a contractor in China,” she said.

Representatives of Bright Diamond, Castle Angkor Pitch and Indace International could not be reached for comment.

Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said the obstacles encountered by the OIG could be remedied by the introduction of a law on freedom of information, which ruling party lawmaker Chheang Vun said last month would be passed in the new year.

“I think the challenges that [the Global Fund] found are very common, especially with the absence of a freedom of information law. It’s especially difficult to obtain financial expenses,” he said. “That’s why civil society is advocating a law be passed as soon as possible.”

“We hope that in the near future we will have a law and that this will change perceptions.… [The law must meet] international standards and also include proper implementation.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Cambodia purchases 4 million Molnupiravir tablets

    Cambodia has arranged for the purchase of four million US-made Molnupiravir pills – enough to treat 100,000 Covid-19 patients – even though the current rate of daily infections in Cambodia remains low. The medicine will be distributed to state hospitals, pharmacies and private clinics, according to the Samdech

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • Is Cambodia’s travel sector in for another cheerless holiday season?

    The travel and tourism sector was heaving back to life as borders started to reopen, promising a festive vibe for the holidays and New Year. But Omicron and other Covid-related issues are threatening to close the year on a bleak note ‘Seems [like] Covid-19 won’

  • Cambodia planning new border checkpoint at Thma Da

    Cambodia is looking into the possibility of opening a new Thma Da Border Checkpoint with Thailand to boost trade and tourism. The Ministry of Public Works and Transport said on December 4 that Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol led a technical working group

  • Hun Sen: Manet to be candidate for prime minister

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has reaffirmed that his oldest son Hun Manet will be his successor as Prime Minister if he is elected. Speaking during the inauguration of a new sewage treatment facility in Preah Sihanouk province on December 2, Hun Sen said Manet will be