The government’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) will investigate evidence of massive corruption in the health sector uncovered in a two-year audit by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and those found to have committed wrongdoing will be prosecuted, a CPP spokesman said Monday.
“It is very essential to do an investigation and send the case to court,” CPP lawmaker and party spokesman Cheam Yeap said, adding that the ACU would take on the case based on the findings of the Global Fund’s report, released Friday.
“It doesn’t matter whether or not the alleged corrupt officials remain in position or resign…. They must face prosecution for committing corruption,” Mr. Yeap said.
The report implicates three individuals in the corruption, including the former director of the Ministry of Health’s National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control (CNM), Duong Socheat, who retired in 2011, along with one of his deputies. Together, they are accused of receiving $410,000 in bribes and roughly $20,000 in gifts from companies hoping to secure lucrative government contracts to provide mosquito nets.
A man identified only as a senior procurement officer for the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD Control (NCHADS) was also accused of manipulating bidding practices.
On Sunday, Tia Phalla, deputy director of NCHADS, called the Global Fund’s findings “not so serious,” while the Ministry of Health issued a statement disavowing any responsibility for the corruption in its sub-agencies.
Officials with the Anti-Corruption Unit could not be reached for comment Monday, but Transparency International said that all parties involved—including the Ministry of Health—should be held accountable.
“This can only happen in a systematic way; it can not happen by only one person or one institution. Clearly the Ministry [of Health] has a responsibility to oversee the management of the funds and see what relevant departments are doing, and not just give money out and wash their hands,” said Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International in Cambodia.
Sin Somuny, executive director of Medicam, an umbrella group of health NGOs, which the report found had charged three donors for the same staff position as well as charging the Global Fund for a position that was never occupied, claimed Monday that the allegations of wrongdoing against his organization had been based on “a misunderstanding.”
Because it would have taken too long to get permission to shift funding, Mr. Somuny said he decided to create a staff position and charge part of the salary to the Global Fund and part to AusAid, the Australian aid agency.
“We should have told them [Global Fund]. That’s our mistake,” he said.
However, he maintained that no harm was done by his subterfuge, as money wasn’t lost.
Although the report says that the Global Fund was charged $14,400 for an advocacy adviser in 2009, Mr. Somuny also claimed that he had not requested or received such funds.
The Global Fund has spent about $33 million annually in Cambodia since 2003. The Ministry of Health managed the money directly until 2009, after which CNM and NCHADS became the principal recipients.
© 2013, Denise Hruby. All rights reserved.