Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Please, Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, stop orphanage scams in Cambodia, funded with tax-deductible Australian charity dollars

Citipointe removed Rosa and Chita from their family illegally in 2008. The church refuses to produce MOUs that prove it removed the girls in accordance with Cambodian law. Citipointe's funding partner, the Global Development Group (GDG), refuses to provide the parents,Chanti and Chhork, with copies of the MOUs. The  Australian Council for International Development, whose job it is to monitor the activities of Australian NGOs, refuses to ask Citipointe or the GDG to produce the MOUs.

The Hon Julie Bishop
Minister for Foreign Affairs
House of Representatives, Parliament House

Canberra ACT 2600                                                                          

6th August 2014

Dear Minister

Tonight, on the ABC, (HEAD FIRST) there will be another expose of the orphanage scams rife in Cambodia. I wonder how many such scams will need to be exposed before the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) or the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) does or says something about Australians involved in such scams?

The silence from your office suggests that no-one at any level within DFAT - up to and including yourself - cares one way or another if Australian-based NGOs are stealing the children of poor Cambodian families. How else to explain the refusal of DFAT or ACFID to ask either Citipointe church or the Global Development Group to provide documentary evidence of the legality of its actions in removing Rosa and Chita from their family in 2008?

It may be that within DFAT and ACFID there is, deep down, a lack of concern for the welfare of poor Cambodian families whose children are effectively stolen by Australian-based NGOs. However, even if no such empathy exists, surely it must be of concern to you and your parliamentary colleagues that tax-deductible Australian charity dollars are being funneled through the Global Development Group to Australian-based NGOs in breach of both Cambodian law and the ACFID Code of Conduct!

The Global Development Group does not conduct adequate assessment or monitoring of its funding partners (as required by the ACFID Code of Conduct) and yet charges between 5% and 9% to the NGOs it provides funding to! In the case of Citipointe church’s ‘SHE Rescue Home’ there has been, this past six years, zero monitoring and assessing by GDG. Indeed, GDG has been complicit, through its funding, in the illegal removal of children from their families.

Another NGO funded by GDG, with many questions to answer regarding its adherence to the ACFID Code of Conduct, is the Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF). Getting Scott Neeson, Executive Director of CCF,  to answer pertinent questions is impossible so I have put some of these questions to Mr Bob Alexander, CEO of CCF:

My experience to date with DFAT is that no questions will be asked of NGOs taking advantage of their Australian tax-deductible status, and that the status quo will be maintained until such time  as there is a Somaly Mam-style scandal or expose - at which point DFAT and ACFID spin-doctors will go to work distancing both bodies from any knowledge that such scams were occurring. 

Please, Minister, pick up the phone and ask Geoff Armstrong at the Global Development Group to provide copies of the MOUs and any other documents he believes gave GDG's funding partner, Citipointe church, the right to remove children from their families in 2008.

best wishes

James Ricketson