January 29, 2015

ACU lays out rules on receiving gifts

ead of the Anti-Corruption Unit, Om Yentieng, addresses the media
after a meeting at the National Assembly in November. Heng Chivoan
Chhay Channyda, The Phnom Penh Post
Thu, 29 January 2015

The body overseeing the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) has made public internal regulations that prohibit ACU personnel from receiving gifts worth more than $25 and require them to report business dinners in advance, while also making rare disclosures about the kinds of items proffered to the unit’s officials, including a nearly $300 bottle of whiskey.

In a three-page statement obtained yesterday but issued by the National Anti-Corruption Council after a meeting on Tuesday, the council, which oversees the ACU, stressed that officials adhere to strict monetary caps for accepting gifts and seek permission before dining out on official business.

“Going out to have meals – besides eating in a family manner – [like] eating at a ceremony, wedding and work meals have to seek authorisation in advance. All gifts which are worth more than $25 have to be [reported to] the unit,” the notice said.

While spelling out the internal rules, the notice also revealed some of the activities of the ACU’s own staff, including anti-corruption czar Om Yentieng himself. According to the statement, Yentieng went out for a business meal once over the past two months, and he reported it to the disciplinary and internal council.

Yentieng also reportedly received eight different gifts that he reported to the internal council. He returned three of them, which were worth less than $10. He was also given money three times, but the report did not state an amount or say what it was for.

In the same notice, Noun Bophal, deputy president of the ACU, was down as having one official meal, while Sambath Houna, who also works with the unit, reportedly handed over “a bottle of wine (Chivas 25 worth nearly $300) to the internal council”.

Yentieng and his officials could not be reached for comment, and the notice did not go into further detail about whom the dinners were with, why they were held and who offered the various gifts in the first place.

Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, praised the seemingly strict rules for the ACU.

“What they are doing is making the officials be responsible,” he said.

But he suggested that the rules might run into a wall in the Cambodian “context”, in which the giving and receiving of small gifts is widely accepted.

“In some cases, if they do not take it, [they] can be thought [of as] not friendly or not good.”

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