Accusations of misappropriation of funds and corruption have been made against the Kampot provincial office of a Swiss religious NGO.
An unsigned letter alleges three HEKS officials pocketed money earmarked for agricultural development. One of those officials acknowledges there are problems in the provincial office, but characterized them as minor.
The letter claims the group’s national office in Phnom Penh provided Mao Sren, HEKS chief in Kampot, and two of his staff members with $12,825 to hold two workshops on constructing machetes and plows.
Rather than building the agricultural equipment in their workshops, the letter alleges, the staff members bought “cheap” machetes and plows at a market and split the remaining $3,867 between themselves.
“The people of the three communes [where the machetes and plows were scheduled to be sent] and the HEKS staff in the commune are disappointed with the Kampot provincial HEKS office. The corrupted group told members of the workshops that superiors told them [to buy the cheaper products rather than manufacture them], and to be quiet,” the letter states.
Phnom Penh HEKS also directed the provincial office to buy 180 oxen for $150 each, but the provincial office paid only $25 for weak oxen, and some relatives of employees at the Kampot office gave oxen to the NGO for free, the letter states. The letter claims Kampot workers switched weak oxen for healthy ones when officials from the Phnom Penh office traveled to Kampot to monitor the program.
“I acknowledge that there are some problems, but it could be resolved. There may be some irregularities, but they are very small,” Mao Sren.
Mao Sren deflected any responsibility for the alleged violations, saying he is not involved in buying any machetes, plows or oxen and is “only the facilitator.”
Officials from the Phnom Penh HEKS office said they were unaware of the charges. Imelda Dela Cruz, HEKS administrative officer, wrote in a letter that HEKS sent staff to Kampot Monday to investigate the charges.
“If and when we find the complaints authentic, we will do our best to see that justice is done,” Dela Cruz wrote.
HEKS has provided humanitarian and development aid in Cambodia since 1979. Their total budget for 2000 was $500,000. The NGO employs 46 people in Cambodia, according to the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia.
(Additional reporting by Van Rouen)