Monday, June 30, 2014
Directors of the Global Development Group Board
734 Underwood Road
Rochedale, QLD 4123
30th June 2014
Dear David James Pearson
Geoffrey Winston Armstrong
Ofelia (fe) Luscombe
I am writing on Chanti’s and Chhork’s behalf from Cambodia in my capacity as their legally appointed advocate.
It is now five weeks since Chanti and Chhork sent their request to you that they be provided with copies of the 2008 and 2009 MOUs that both Citipointe and GDG claim gave the church to the right to remove and Rosa and Chita from their family in 2008 and detain them for close to 5 years contrary to the express wishes of their parents.
Can you provide me with a time frame within which Chanti and Chhork might receive a response to their 23rd May request?
I have included the text of Chanti’s and Chhork’s request below.
On a different but related topic, I wonder if the Global Development Group would care to comment on the fact that one of its funding partners (the Cambodian Children’s Fund) has as the head of its Child Protection Unit a convicted Australian criminal (and former Australian Federal police officer) by the name of James Mc Cabe? The appointment of such a man to head up a Child Protection Unit would, as you know, not be allowed in Australia.
Did GDG fail to pick up the appointment of James Mc Cabe during its assessment and monitoring processes? Or, if GDG has been aware all along of Mc Cabe’s criminal record, do you board members believe his appointment to be in accordance with the terms and conditions outlined in the ACFID Code of Conduct?
CHANTI AND CHHORK’S REQUEST OF THE GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT GROUP – dated 23rd May 2014
We are the Cambodian mother and father of Chanti Rosa and Chanty Cheata. Our daughters have lived in Citipointe church’s ‘SHE Rescue Home’ since 2008 against our wishes.
The Global Development Group (GDG), of which you are Executive Director, provides funding to Citipointe church’s ‘SHE Rescue Home.’ This funding has been approved, through the Australian Council for International Development, by AusAID.
The GDG is bound by the Australian Council for International Development Code of Conduct and is obliged, in accordance with the Code, to be ‘transparent’. The meaning of the word ‘transparent’ is clear in the Code of Conduct.
‘An organisation’s openness about its activities, providing information on what it is doing, where and how this takes place and how it is performing’.
Neither Citipointe church nor GDG has provided us with any of the information we have requested since Citipointe church removed our daughters from their home in 2008. Instead, the church keeps promising to return our daughters but never does.
We have read the ACFID Code of Conduct and understand that we, as parents of Rosa and Cheata, are known as ‘stakeholders.’ We read the following in the Code of Conduct:
B.1.1 Accountability to primary stakeholders
Signatory organisations will ensure that their purpose and processes are shaped by stakeholders and that their work is open to review and comment by partners and participants alike. In all instances those directly affected by aid and development activities are considered the primary stakeholders and their views afforded the highest priority.
Signatory organisations will prioritise accountability to local people and those directly affected by aid and development activities, prioritising their needs and rights
As stakeholders our views about Citipointe church’s refusal to return our daughters have been ignored. As stakeholders our needs and rights have been ignored. We are told that our rights are outlined in two Memoranda of Understanding Citipointe church entered into with the Cambodia government – the first in 2008 and the second in 2009. Citipoint church and your own GDG have refused to provide us with copies of the two MOUs so we do not know what our rights are or what we must do to have our daughters returned to us.
As a ‘signatory organisation’ (to the ACFID Code) the GDG is obliged to “analyse the needs and expectations of key stakeholders in all aid and development activities, pursuing informed and balanced accountability to each.” Our own needs and expectations have been ignored for nearly 6 years.
We request that the Global Development Group provide us with (a) Annual self-assessment by GDG for the years 2008 - 2014 “by the signatory organisation’s governing body”, and
(b) a reason why our complaints to Citipointe since 2008 have been ignored. It is the responsibility of the GDG to see to it that there is “an independent complaints handling and discipline process.”
Finally, the Code of Conduct is clear about the Global Development Group’s obligations:
“Obligations on the signatory organisation to be ethical and transparent in marketing, fundraising and reporting.”
Citipointe’s ‘SHE Rescue Home’ has behaved in an unethical way by presenting our daughters to sponsors and donors as victims of human trafficking. The ‘contract’ Citipointe tricked me, as mother, into signing on 31st July 2008 makes it clear that it was only the fact that the family was very poor at the time that caused me to ask the church for help for a short time. Rosa and Chita were not victims of human trafficking. I have never been a victim of human trafficking myself, even though Citipointe says that I was.
Could you please provide us both, as parents, with answers to our questions and with copies of any documents the Global Development Group has in its possession that relate to our daughters removal and detention by your funding partner, Citipointe’s ‘SHE Rescue Home’ – as you are required to do as signatories of the ACFID Code of Conduct?
Yem Chanti Both Chhork
Thursday, June 19, 2014
The Hon Julie Bishop
Minister for Foreign Affairs
House of Representatives, Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
19th June 2014
“Traditional aid approaches are no longer good enough. We need a fresh approach – a new aid paradigm.”
Hear hear! A fresh approach is required in many areas of aid delivery. It is not just direct AusAID funding that is in need of reform. Those NGOs such as the Global Development Group taking advantage of the imprimatur provided by DFAT need to be subjected to much more rigorous scrutiny than they have been to date.
One suggestion I would like to make is that the rights of the recipients of aid be clearly articulated to them. With few exceptions the beneficiaries of Australian aid are extremely poor, illiterate and have no knowledge (or experience) of the rights they have under Cambodian law. These materially poor people are easy prey for cashed up but unscrupulous NGOs. There need to be put in place mechanisms whereby aid recipients can make a complaint to ACFID, to DFAT, secure in the knowledge that it will be properly investigated. Had such mechanisms existed in 2008, Chanti and Chhork’s daughters would most certainly have been returned to them by November that year when it became apparent that Citipointe church had no legal right to detain them.
I have finally managed to get hold of a copy of the standard ‘boilerplate’ pro forma MOU that the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs entered into with expatriate NGOs in 2008. It is six pages long and much of it is not relevant to whether or not Citipointe’s removal of Rosa and Chita in 2008 and the church’s subsequent close-to-six years of detention was legal.
I will quote only those parts of the MOU that are relevant:
“Whereas” The Royal Government of Cambodia has expressed a desire that (name of NGO) will exchange exclusively in humanitarian activities for social welfare and public benefit in cooperation with the Royal Government of Cambodia; and…
“Whereas” (name of NGO) agrees to comply with the laws and regulations of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
The Royal Government of Cambodia, represented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, for the purposes of the present MOU, and (name of MOU) have mutually agreed to the following:
Undertaking of the Royal Government of Cambodia
The Royal Government of Cambodia undertakes to the following:
Recognizes that (name of NGO) is authorized to open its office in Phnom Penh and other provincial cities to conduct its humanitarian activities and to implement its approved projects within the laws and regulations of the Kingdom of Cambodia and in accordance with the provisions of this MOU.
Allows (name of NGO) to carry out its humanitarian projects in other locations or provincial cities upon due approval of relevant government authorities based on government priorities and on (name of NGO) field of competence and budget availabilities…
Undertaking of NGO
(name of NGO) undertakes to the following:
Respects fully the laws and regulations of the Kingdom of Cambodia and will not allow its staff to engage in any activities which might disturb peace, stability and public order or undermine national security, unity, culture and tradition of the Cambodian society.
There is nothing at all in this pro forma MOU that gave Citipointe church the legal right to remove Rosa and Chita in 2008. The document that Citipointe relied on to argue the legality of its actions was the 31st July 2008 ‘contract’ that Leigh Ramsey tricked Chanti and her mother, Vanna, into signing. This ‘contract’ did not give Citipointe the legal right of removal or detention. The moment Chanti and Chhork requested that their daughters be returned to them, a couple of months after Chanti placed her thumb print on this document, Citipointe had no legal right of detention.
Article 8 of the Cambodian Law on Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation is pertinent here:
Definition of Unlawful Removal
The act of unlawful removal in this law shall mean to:
1) remove a person from his/her current place of residence to a place under the actor’s or a third person’s control by means of force, threat, deception, abuse of power, or enticement, or
2) without legal authority or any other legal justification to do so, take a minor or a person under general custody or curatorship or legal custody away from the legal custody of the parents, care taker or guardian.
A person who unlawfully removes a minor or a person under general custody or curatorship or legal custody shall be punished with imprisonment for 2 to 5 years.
Unless Citipointe church entered into an MOU with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that was not ‘boilerplate’, that was different from the MOUs other expatriate NGOs entered into in 2008, Pastor Leigh Ramsey is guilty of ‘unlawful removal under Cambodian law. I have been pointing this out for many years now but my advocacy on behalf of Chanti and Chhork yielded no result for close to six years.
If Citipointe’s 2008 MOU is close to identical to the ‘boilerplate’ MOU, what are we to make of Geoff Armstrong’s defense of Citipointe, as articulated in a letter to me:
“We have thoroughly investigated your concerns and we can’t see any area where SHE Rescue Home has not adhered to their requirement of the ACFID Code of Conduct. Therefore a Code complaint cannot be made….Global Development Group has copies of all the required documentation and has no problems with ‘SHE Rescue Home’.”
So, Geoff Armstrong, in possession of the 2008 MOU Citipointe entered into with the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is satisfied that it gave the ‘SHE Rescue Home’ (funded by GDG) the right to remove Rosa and Chita and to detain them contrary to the express wishes of the parents, Chanti and Chhork!
It is possible, I suppose (though highly unlikely) that Citipointe entered into a quite different MOU to the ‘boilerplate’ one other NGOs entered into in 2008. If so, why have Geoff Armstrong and the board of GDG refused all requests by Chanti, Chhork and myself as their legally appointed advocate, to be provided with a copy of the 2008 MOU.
The argument has been presented to me that since Citipointe church has never been a recipient of AusAID funding, DFAT (and hence ACFID) has no jurisdiction when it comes to assessing the legality of the church’s actions. My reading of the ACFID Code of Conduct suggests otherwise, given that Citipointe’s ‘SHE Rescue Home’ receives funding from the Global Development Group, which is a signitory to the ACFID Code of Conduct.
GDG goes out of its way in its literature and online to assure sponsors and donors that the NGO has the imprimatur of DFAT. I will quote here just one of these. The bold italics are mine:
Cambodian Children's Fund Australia is proud to be a partner in Project J642 The CCF Education Program, Cambodia with Global Development Group (ABN 57 102 400 993), an Australian Non Government Organisation (NGO) carrying out humanitarian projects with approved partners and providing aid to relieve poverty and provide long term solutions through the provision of quality aid and development projects. Global Development Group takes responsibility for approved projects according to DFAT rules, providing a governance role and assisting in the areas of planning, monitoring, reviewing and evaluating to ensure that approved projects are carried out to Australian requirements.
GDG has singularly failed to ensure that Citipointe’s ‘SHE Rescue Home’ abided by ‘DFAT rules’ and in accordance with ‘Australian requirements’.
“The government has a zero tolerance policy towards fraud in the aid program. We will take a robust approach to preventing, detecting and rapidly responding to fraud. Any instance of alleged, suspected, attempted or suspected fraud relating to an aid investment must immediately be reported by DFAT officials and investigated.”
This is a quote from your own opinion piece in yesterday’s Australian.
The evidence points overwhelmingly to Citipointe’s having used fraud to take possession of Rosa and Chita in 2008. The Global Development Group provided AusdAID approved funding to Citipointe church without bothering to check to see if Citipointe was behaving in accordance with Cambodian law, if it was behaving ethically and in terms of the ACFID Code of Conduct. And, when Citipointe’s breaches of Cambodian law, the ACFID Code of Conduct and AusAID rules were pointed out to Geoff Armstrong he staunchly defended Citipointe church.
When Geoff Armstrong’s breaches of the ACFID Code of Conduct were pointed out to the Australian Council for International Development, ACFID, at every level, refused to investigate. The net result is that poor parents like Chanti and Chhork have no-one within DFAT to whom they can turn if their children are fraudulently (and illegally) removed from their care.
The fraud I allege to have been committed by Citipointe church, with the complicity of the Global Development Group and with the ACFID Code of Conduct committee turning a blind eye, is one that can only be investigated properly is the 2008 MOU and the 2009 MOU are taken into account. The refusal on the part of Citipointe, GDG and ACFID to produce these MOUs raises the obvious question: “Why?” If the Global Development Group has acted in accordance with the ACFID Code of Conduct, if the MOUs gave GDG’s funding partner Citipointe church the rights it has asserted, why not produce the MOUs and bring this close-to-six-year dispute to an end?
Just as I have finally managed to obtain a copy of the pro forma MOU that Citipointe almost certainly entered into in 2008, so too will I eventually get hold of a copy of the actual MOU itself. Given your commitment to transparency and accountability, Minister, it should not be necessary for me to put so much time, effort and money into achieving a goal that could be achieved by Ms Sam Mostyn, Dr Sue Anne Wallace, Murray Hanson or Jeremy Leung simply picking up the phone and saying to Geoff Armstrong: “Please send through copies of the MOUs in the next hour.”
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
The Hon Julie Bishop
Minister for Foreign Affairs
House of Representatives, Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600 18th June 2014
It has been pointed out to me that Citipointe church does not receive AusAID monies from the Global Development Group. I have never suggested that it did. I have always used the expression ‘AusAID approved’ in relation to GDG. Here is one of many references that GDG makes to its relationship with AusAID and DFAT:
Global Development Group (GDG) is a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) carrying out overseas humanitarian projects with approved partners, providing aid and long-term solutions to help relieve poverty to the World’s poorest.
As an approved organisation under the OAGDS scheme (answerable to DFAT and the ATO) GDG aligns its projects with the Australian Government’s Aid Program and its commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)….Global Development Group does not receive DFAT funding but is involved in a number of projects where AusAID provides funding from the government, and Global Development Group supplies the funding from the Australian Public….Global Development Group makes significant effort to comply to the accreditation standards as well as complete compliance with ACFID self-assessment.
GDG, a signatory to the ACFID Code of Conduct, providing tax-deductible funding to Citipointe, has not, in the case of the MOUs, made ‘a significant effort to comply to the accreditation standards,’ as laid out in the Code. It has made no effort at all. Indeed, GDG has refused every request for the MOUs made by Chanti, Chhork and myself. If GDG was committed ‘complete compliance with ACFID self-assessment’ it would insist on Citipointe providing copies of the MOUs to Chanti and Chhork in accordance with ACFID requirements.
A brief description to be found online of the relationship between AusAID and ACFID.
ACFID Code of Conduct and AusAID Accreditation Complementarity and mutual support for NGO Good Practice
The below table aims to highlight how the principles and obligations of the revised Code of Conduct align with the requirements and criteria of AusAID accreditation. It illustrates how compliance with the new Code of Conduct will support those agencies that are accredited or may seek accreditation to meet and demonstrate the relevant accreditation requirements on an ongoing basis.
The ACFID Code of Conduct is recognised by AusAID as an important quality assurance mechanism for Australian NGOs working in international aid and development. It is an AusAID requirement that organisations be signatories to the Code before they can be accredited to receive funding from the aid program. Not only are accredited agencies required to be signatories to the ACFID Code, other accreditation requirements draw directly from Code standards, including financial reporting and governance arrangements, and are mutually compatible in a many other respects, including in the areas of program management, monitoring and reporting, and engagement with the pubic.
The Global Development Group has certain clearly defined obligations in relation to ACFID and AusAID. That Citipointe is not a direct recipient of AusAID funds does not absolve GDG from its responsibility to abide by the Code.
At the heart of this mater there is one simple question:
“Why is it that no-one in a position to do so within DFAT, within ACFID and up to and including the relevant member of your own staff, is prepared to say to the Global Development Group: ‘Could you please, in accordance with the requirement of the ACFID Code of Conduct, provide Chanti and Chhork, parents of Rosa and Chita, with copies of the MOUs.’”
I do not understand why, Minister, you or the relevant person in her department, cannot simply write a quick note to Citipointe and the Global Development Group along the lines of:
“The controversy surrounding the removal of Rosa and Chita from their family in 2008 centres on two MOUs Citipointe entered into with the Cambodian Ministries of Foreign and Social Affairs. Could you please provide the parents, Chanti and Chhork, with copies of these MOUs?”
If ACFID refuses to make such a request and it no such request is forthcoming from your office, is it any wonder that unscrupulous NGOs can feel confident in breaching Cambodian law and the human rights of the poor and powerless? They know, despite being in receipt of tax-deductible donations from the Australian public, that they will not be held them accountable?
That I should need to write so many letters to so many people in order to get Citipointe and the Global Development Group to provide Chanti and Chhork with copies of the MOUs is, itself, symptomatic of the problems inherent in the way in which aid is delivered. All that was ever required, all that is required today, is for the relevant person to pick up the phone and ask Geoff Armstrong to provide copies of the MOUs to Chanti, Chhork, their legal counsel and to myself. Simple. Why no-one will make this phone call is a mystery to me.