ACU Places Cap on Gifts to Officials

One official at the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) had to give up a $300 bottle of Scotch whisky under a new set of rules on meals and gifts aimed at keeping the unit’s staff beyond suspicion, according to the ACU.

Any gift worth more than $25 dollars must now be handed over and held at the anti-graft body’s headquarters while all work-related meals outside the office need pre-approval, according to a statement posted to the ACU’s website on Monday about the latest meeting of the Anti-Corruption Council, which oversees the unit.

“The Anti-Corruption Council has carefully evaluated the recent work of the Anti-Corruption Unit, especially the strengthening of internal discipline,” it says.

The statement includes a two-month review of ACU officials’ compliance to the new rules.

In addition to the expensive bottle of 25-year-old Chivas Regal gifted to one officer, ACU chairman Om Yentieng had to give up five of eight gifts he received that exceeded the new price limit and reported one business meal. Eight other officials sought permission for meals.

Except for the whisky, the statement provides no prices for the gifts or meals. Nor does it specify the period of the two-month review.

Neither Mr. Yentieng nor his deputy, Chhay Savuth, could be reached Wednesday. ACU administration chief Chea Chanthor declined to comment.

Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International (TI) Cambodia, welcomed the ACU’s new internal rules and said he would like to see all other government institutions follow suit.

“It will help reduce corruption because it has become a culture in Cambodia,” he said. “During Khmer New Year and wedding parties, there are always expensive gifts. The children of high-ranking government officials give expensive gifts to secure support for their businesses or to get promotions.”

Cambodia regularly ranks among the most corrupt countries in the world. In TI’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, Cambodia ranked 156 out of 175 countries surveyed.

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