Scandal may be creeping back into the Cambodia Mine Action Center amid detailed allegations of corruption and fraud made last week by a former CMAC official.
Officials in CMAC’s 3rd Demining Unit in Pailin have been exaggerating expenses for personal profit in recent months, Chea Sambo, a former CMAC logistics assistant in Pailin, said Thursday.
Also, numerous CMAC officials across the country said last week that CMAC staff members must pay bribes—sometimes more than $1,000—before the organization will employ them.
The accusations of fraudulent expenses are leveled at three officials from the Pailin unit: Him Vandy, demining manager; Tun Sokhun, finance officer; and Hong Kea Ly, a radio technician.
A second official in the unit corroborated the charges in an interview Friday. “This is not the first time” the three have committed fraud, the official said. “They forge every receipt.”
Chea Sambo called on the US Embassy to investigate the allegations. The US is the main donor funding CMAC’s work in Pailin.
Chea Sambo was fired July 18. He is also accused of paying bribes.
“They did not clearly inform me of why they were sacking me,” he said. “Previously I was accused of paying a bribe for my position.”
He denied that he paid his way into the job, which he said he was given after passing an entrance exam.
The accused officials denied the allegations, and said that Chea Sambo was fired for incompetence.
“He was fired because of an inability to do his work,” Him Vandy said Sunday.
Chea Sambo accused the three officials of lying about the cost of radio repair work. They claimed $2,800 in expenses for radio repair work that in fact cost $680, Chea Sambo said. Him Vandy divided the remaining $2,120 among CMAC staff, Chea Sambo said. The incident is alleged to have occurred in April.
Chea Sambo said he received $100, which he said he did not want to accept. “I did not want to do this but they already had a plan,” he said. “If I refused to accept [the money], I would face problems with them.”
Tun Sokhun confirmed that he had given Chea Sambo $100 following the repair work. But he said the money was commission from a businessman who owned the shop in Battambang province where CMAC bought the repair equipment. “Businessmen always pay commission when someone buys something from their shop,” Tun Sokhun said. “It is normal for everyone.”
Chea Sambo also accused the three officials of lying about the expenses for repair work on a bridge in Samlot district, Battambang province early this year. They claimed $200 in expenses, when the work only cost $40, he said. The officials frequently forged receipts, as members of the unit are not allowed to spend more than $1,000 on a business transaction, Chea Sambo said.
To secure a job at CMAC, from chauffeur upward, applicants have to pay bribes ranging from $500 to more than $1,000, more than 10 officials from Phnom Penh and Banteay Meanchey said last week.
Chea Sambo said he was fired under Heng Ratana’s orders. Along with more than 10 CMAC officials who asked not to be named, he accused Heng Ratana, CMAC deputy director, of sacking numerous staff who he considered disloyal. Heng Ratana makes the firings while CMAC director Khem Sophoan is out of the country, the officials said.
Heng Ratana denied firing staff on partisan grounds. “Khem Sophoan also fired many staff—it’s not just me,” he said. “They made mistakes.”
One CMAC official who declined to be named said corruption was widespread within the organization. “CMAC has many internal problems,” he said. “Each leader has tried to select their [own] people to put in main positions to ensure strong support and to enable corruption among themselves,” the official said.
CMAC is no stranger to accusations of systemic corruption. In late 1998, top officials admitted to falsifying salary records to obtain an additional $90,000 in funds, CMAC and government officials confirmed at the time.
Donors suspended funding and demanded a sweeping overhaul of CMAC’s operations, and several senior CMAC officials were fired.