Slow Response to Complaints Angered Former Coffel Staffers

Former staffers at the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections say they were disturbed by possible corruption within the organization and angry that their complaints were not immediately re­solved when they decided to re­sign as a group last month.

The 11 workers, most of whom spoke to The Cambodia Daily, said they tried to resolve the problems on their own before walking out. “We walked away by ourselves because of corruption within the organization and [because] the board of directors did not re­solve any problems we submitted to them,” one of the staffers said.

Their boss verbally abused them and made inappropriate sex­­ual advances, they claimed.

Those problems, along with the possibility of corrupt budgeting within Coffel, broke the staff’s spirit, the workers said. They said they thought they were trying to pre­­vent corruption in the commune council elections, not participate in it.

Their allegations were written in a report distributed to four do­nor organizations supporting Cof­f­el. The report led to Exec­u­tive Director Sek Sophal’s sus­pen­sion and an ongoing investi­ga­tion by PriceWater­house­Coop­ers to determine the veracity of the allegations. The report alleges Sek Sophal administered a budget in which $13,005 was diverted from donor funds, though it stops short of ac­cusing Sek Sophal of intentionally mis­directing funds, saying the problem could be the result of bad bookkeeping.

“We want PriceCoopers to aud­it and find out the truth,” a for­mer staff member said. Another former worker said Price­Water­houseCoopers conducted a regularly scheduled audit in 2000 but did not find any wrongdoing.

Senaka Fernando, manager for Price­WaterhouseCoopers, said the auditing firm did not plan to pub­licly release the findings of its in­vestigation, since it was requested by their clients. The investigation has been paid for by the do­nors involved and the Coffel board, he said.

He said if an audit is done on Coffel’s budget, at least one of the affected donors has requested it not be released to the public.


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