ACU Partners With Coca-Cola in Anti-Graft Agreement

During a four-hour pop concert in Phnom Penh to mark International Anti-Corruption Day on Monday, the Coca-Cola Company and the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) signed an agreement that commits the international soft drinks company to avoid committing bribery in Cambodia.

“Corruption is the barrier to development and the barrier of economic improvement, and is also the barrier to a clean society and good governance,” ACU chairman Om Yentieng said in a speech at the event, before inviting Paul Popelier, the head of the Coca-Cola Company in Cambodia, to the stage.

Mr. Popelier, who sipped from a can of Coca-Cola before signing the document, said later that the company hoped its agreement would have wide-reaching benefits.

“Some businesses think you cannot do business in Cambodia if you do not bribe. Coca-Cola Company declares that we are doing business here and we 100 percent comply,” Mr. Popelier said at a press conference.

An English-language digest of the agreement distributed to the media said that Coca-Cola had signed the agreement to indicate the company’s “respect of the noble efforts of the Royal Government of Cambodia in fighting against corruption.”

“Coca-Cola will continue to not participate in acts of corruption or bribery in order to set an example for the private sector in joining the combat against corruption,” the document says.

The company also agreed to continue to educate its staff against participating in graft and to report to the ACU any attempts to corrupt staff.

“Coca-Cola may take a proactive approach in keeping the ACU informed of any solicitations received by Coca-Cola for improper payments from government officials, suppliers, customers and other organizations or individuals,” it said.

While the songs performed at the concert were largely pop standards, one duo took to the stage to perform a fast-paced number titled “Don’t Want to Corrupt, Cannot Corrupt, Dare Not to Corrupt.”

“Please do not be corrupt and make the King worry and the prime minister worry also,” rang the song’s refrain.

“Please stop corruption. If you are corrupt, no one can help you. Please do not be corrupt, we must try our best not to be involved in any corruption,” it added.

At a press conference after the event, Mr. Yentieng said the Coca-Cola Company had strict internal anticorruption policies that make it an easy vessel through which to influence other firms in the country.

“We signed the MoU with the Coca-Cola Company since the Coca-Cola Company is the head of the train that can pull other companies in a tide against corruption,” he said.

Transparency International last week revealed that Cambodia had slipped in the rankings to a lowly 160th out of 177 states in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index, while the ACU has been roundly criticized by civil society groups since its 2010 founding for its sparse prosecution record.

The unit is yet to investigate findings from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria of large-scale corruption at the Ministry of Health. The fund revealed last month that Health Ministry officials had pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars intended for poor victims of malaria and HIV/AIDS.

“We have received the Global Fund report but we still have not yet evaluated it,” Mr. Yentieng said in response to questions on whether the ACU has investigated the report’s claims.

“We are waiting to contact the Global Fund to discuss the case first.”

© 2013, All rights reserved.