Friday, May 23, 2014

(F) ACFID Code of Conduct committee in serious breach of its own Code

ACFID Code of Conduct Committee
Australian Council for International Development
12 Napier Close, Deakin ACT 2600      

10th May 2014

Dear    Dr Sue-Anne Wallace
Greg Brown
John Gilmore
Bandula Gonsalkorale
Harwood Lockton
Dr Petrus Usmanij
Fadlullah Wilmot
Dr Simon Smith
Michelle Pearce
Julie Mundy

In response to your letter of 4th May.

You have decided that the ACFID Code of Conduct committee of which you are all members, has no jurisdiction to  (a) conduct an Inquiry and, by implication, (b) investigate the Complaint made by Chanti and Chhork on 22nd April 2014. The reason: because Citipointe church’s ‘SHE Rescue Home’ is not a member of ACFID. The italics are mine.

I would like to draw the committee’s attention to 2 sections within the Code of Conduct:

B.2.2 Clarity in roles and responsibilities
In work undertaken with partner organisations, signatory organisations will ensure mutual clarity and agreement about the objectives of the partnership and the respective roles, responsibilities and mutual accountability mechanisms.
Signatory organisations will work towards having a written agreement with each 
of their partners which sets out the agreed objectives of the collaborative aid and development activity and the roles, responsibilities and obligations of each party.
In their communications with stakeholders, signatory organisations will appropriately reference the role of their partners in delivering aid and development activities.
The Global Development Group (a signatory organization) has a duty to ensure ‘clarity and agreement’ from Citipointe church (a ‘partner organization’) regarding, amongst other things, ‘mutual accountability mechanisms.’ For the purposes of the ACFID Code of Conduct (and hence your committee), Citipointe church and the Global Development Group are as one – in a partnership.

This proposition is supported by what is written on the Citipointe church website:
“Global Development Group takes responsibility of the project according to AusAID rules providing a governance role and assisting in the areas of planning, monitoring, evaluating and auditing to ensure the projects are carried out to AusAID requirements.”

So, a written agreement must exist between GDG and Citipointe vis a vis the “SHE Rescue Home’; an agreement that makes reference to ‘planning’ and ‘monitoring – both of which must be carried out in accordance with ‘AusAID requirement.’

Has the ACFID Code of Conduct committee asked the Global Development Group for a copy of this agreement? Has a copy of this agreement been provided to two key stakeholders – namely, Chanti and Chhork?

I imagine that a clever Spin Doctor or lawyer might find a way of absolving the Global Development Group of any responsibility for the way in which the ‘SHE Rescue Home’ spends the AusAID-approved funds provided to Citipointe church, but I doubt that it would convince anyone other, it seems than the board of which you are members.

B.2.3 Control of funds and resources
Signatory organisations will make every reasonable effort to ensure that funds or resources disbursed to partners or third parties are applied lawfully, in accordance with the promise to the donor, for a proper purpose and with proper controls
 and risk management in place. (Australian Government legislative requirement).
1. A signatory organisation will only disburse donated funds or resources to a third party (including affiliates or partner agencies) for aid and development activities where it is satisfied that:
The activity is consistent with the explicit or implicit promise to the donor;
The funds or resources will be disbursed in accordance with relevant laws including taxation, counter terrorism financing and anti-money laundering legislation; and
Appropriate control and risk management mechanisms are in place to mitigate the risk of misappropriation or improper use of the funds or resources once disbursed.
Has the Global Development Group, in the opinion of your committee, taken ‘every reasonable effort’ to ensure that the ‘SHE Rescue Home’ (a) acts in accordance with Cambodian and Australian law, (b) carries out its aid work in accordance with promises the NGO has made to GDG and that the Global Development Group lived up to its responsibility (to AusAID) to see to it that (c) that funds are not ‘improperly used.
It is not possible for your committee to have a valid opinion on these questions for as long as you refuse to ask the Global Development Group to provide copies of (a) the 2008 and 2009 MOUs and whatever court documents GDG has in its possession relating to the legal transfer of ‘authority’ of Rosa and Chita from Chanti and Chhok to Citipointe’s ‘SHE Rescue Home’.
Your committee’s refusal to ask for the MOUs is extraordinary, to say the least! In trying to absolve he Global Development Group of any responsibility for the actions of its ‘partner’, the ‘SHE Rescue Home’, you are, individually and collectively, in breach of your own guidelines.
But let’s leave the Code of Conduct guidelines to one side, for the moment, and apply common sense. If, under the circumstances that prevail here, the Global Development Group can provide funding to any non-ACFID member and be absolved of any responsibility for how that NGO behaves, the door is left wide open for corruption on a massive scale. What is there to prevent GDG (or any other similarly cashed up AusAID approved NGO) going into partnership with an NGO (to use some extreme examples) that is a front for a terrorist organization, a pedophile ring, money-laundering mafia?
Let’s say that a cashed-up NGO like GDG is providing financial assistance to an ‘orphanage’ that is providing children to rich western pedophiles? (Such ‘orphanages’ do exist). Does the ACFID Code of Conduct committee have any way of identifying a problem as serious as this – where an ‘umbrella’ NGO such as GDG is funding an NGO that is breaking the law of the country in which it is based, AusAID rules, the ACFID Code of Conduct and a whole raft of human rights obligations?
If a ‘stakeholder’ were to lodge a complaint with ACFID about this ‘orphanage’, would the AusAID approved GDG-like NGO be able to offer up, as a defense, “How this orphanage spends its money is none of our concern.” Would your Code of Conduct committee deal with a complaint from a stakeholder by declaring that it could not investigate because the ‘orphanage’ was not a signatory to the ACFID Code of Conduct? And if the parents of one of the ‘orphans’ were to complain that s/he had been sexually abused by foreign men that visited the ‘orphanage’ (funded by an AusAID approved NGO), would your Code of Conduct committees response be to suggest that the parents file a complaint with the local authorities? Would that be the full extent of the ACFID Code of Conduct’s oversight? You would not seek, as a matter of urgency, to conduct your own investigation? An investigation that would involve interviewers skilled in child protection matters talking with the ‘orphans’ and the staff of the NGO? It would seem, on the basis of Dr Sue-Anne Wallace’s letter of 4th May, that no investigation would take place; that your committee would be happy to accept the word of ‘local authorities’. If this be the case, it reveals a remarkable level of naivete on the part of your committee. You cannot, surely, be unaware that corruption is rife in Cambodia and, of course, in many other 3rd world countries.
I wonder if the committee of which you are a part will have the courtesy (both professional and personal) to write to Chanti and Chhork, as you have to me, to explain to them, in language they would understand, why it is that ACFID can play no role in investigating the legal and human rights abuses they and their daughters have experienced at the hands of the ‘SHE Rescue Home’ and its funding partner, the Global Development Group?
best wishes
James Ricketson

cc The Hon Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs
Ms Alison Burrow, Australia’s Ambassador to Cambodia
Pastors Leigh Ramsey and Brian Mulheran
Geoff Armstrong and the Global Development Group board
Various media outlets

Dear Mr Ricketson,

I refer to your letter date 30 April 2014 and its enclosure addressed to myself and members of the ACFID Code of Conduct Committee.

I have considered The matter you have raised. After consultation with other members of the Committee it has been determined that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the Code Committee. Here it is noted that Citipointe Church is not an ACFID member and that issues relating to legal custody of children are more appropriately dealt with by the Cambodian legal system where the children reside.

Finally, I note that the ACFID Code of Conduct complaints process is a confidential one based on the good faith of all the parties. For the record I note here that I am aware of your regular posts on a personal internet blog about this matter and a report in the Cambodian Daily dated 4 April 2014. The latter refers to unlawful activity by you in relation to this matter,

Yours faithfully,

Dr Sue-Anne Wallace
Chair, Code of Conduct Committee

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