“We [ACU officials] received orders from the upper level not to investigate because he [Mr. Yentieng] wanted to solve the problem out of court. The ACU just made a contract with those people to pay back the Global Fund and put an end to the problem.”
Anonymous senior ACU official familiar with the case, 26 March 2014
“[The NACC] listened to the reports carefully on the advice of the ACU and the allegations made by the Global Fund. Due to the speed of the effective investigation of the ACU, the NACC believes the case will be finished soon.”
National Anti-Corruption Council (NACC), statement issued on 30 January 2014
“If we send this case to court the evidence is not enough, so our reputation will be damaged and the Global Fund’s too. So we need to defend their reputation, and the government would also be criticized, then how could the people trust the government anymore?... I ask you [reporters] not to publish about this case. If you do, I will not talk with any of you because this is a secret matter.”
Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) president Om Yentieng, 24 March 2014
How does anti-corruption work in the Land of Wonders? It depends... First, the NACC that oversees the work of the Anti-Corruption Unit may have no idea what its unit up to, if not misguided. In the Global Fund case, for instance, Om Yentieng commands so much NACC confidence that he does have a free reign in dealing with corruption.
Second, according to Om Yentieng, the Global Fund evidence is so weak that there is no need to have it tested in court. If effect, it is not even strong enough to prompt him to conduct any independent investigation into the allegation.
Nonetheless, the funny thing is – with his presumption that no one is guilty in the case – Om Yentieng is convinced enough to sneak behind close door to get alleged corrupt officials to pay the Global Fund back the loots. It is a secret manoeuvring under the table that Om Yentieng does so well to give all well-connected a win-win outcome, a favourite catchphrase of his CPP prime minister.
By not taking the Global Fund allegations to court, Om Yentieng wants to protect the reputation of the CPP government and the Global Fund. It is not certain what type of CPP government reputation Om Yentieng is upholding, but it is doubtful whether the Global Fund needs the ACU protection. The Global Fund would be silly to release any sloppy report and risk damaging their reputation.
Back on the table, Om Yentieng’s ACU has to flex their muscle somehow to show that the CPP government is tough on corruption, which their anxious supporters are dying to see.
Consistent with the CPP modus operandi, it is the weak and the not-so-well-connected that must bear the brunt of the ACU public relations show. Om Yentieng and the education minister are amassing volunteers to oversee forthcoming high school exams at more than 4,000 test sites so that, they say, they can jail any students for cheating. In the past few months, the ACU has been very active, arresting scores of government officers they allege are involved in corruption; none of them are given any chance of paying back the loots. All of them are either retired or work at provincial and district levels – three in Banteay Meanchey, one tax official in Siem Reap, a district police chief and his deputy in Kampot, two Electricite du Cambodge officials in Mondulkiri, and one custom official in Preah Sihanouk province. The casualty list reads like who is who of small potatoes.
Due to the anti-corruption double standard the ACU plays, it is far from certain if those lowly officials are really guilty of anything, besides not belonging to any worthwhile personal interest group. Nonetheless, some must be pawns that can be sacrificed to cover up something sinister.
This ACU fiddle-faddle at the bottom may give some naïve soul an impression and comfort that it is very clean at the top. Other hopeful supporters believe Om Yentieng can clean the Land of Wonders from the bottom step upwards.
Ung Bun Ang