Senior Cambodian Mine
Action Center officials maintained Wednesday that the demining agency has not misused any donor funds, though they refused to make public a financial audit allegedly proving a clean slate.
The audit, which covered 1997 and 1998, was released to CMAC Monday and is the second examination of the agency’s finances. It has been released to some donors, but CMAC Chairman Ieng Mouly said an agreement between the agency and the auditors, KPMG, prevents it from being released publicly.
A similar audit released in July found widespread mismanagement and misallocation of the Cambodian government’s contribution to CMAC. That pushed donors to demand an examination of their aid amid allegations of fraud and embezzlement by agency officials. Donor money accounts for more than 90 percent of CMAC’s budget.
Though the donor audit found no evidence of fraud, it cited more than 100 examples of mismanagement of CMAC supplies, vehicles and recruitment practices. In a prepared statement, CMAC Director General Khem Sophoan questioned the audit’s criticisms, saying they “do not seem to add up with the audit’s general conclusions.”
But neither Khem Sophoan nor Ieng Mouly denied mismanagement inside the agency could have been bad enough to prevent auditors—who had to rely on CMAC officials for information—from getting an accurate picture of the use of donor funds.
The agency has, however, been making efforts toward reform after several donors suspended their CMAC funding as more information about CMAC’s financial reporting troubles became public.
Former CMAC director-general Sam Sotha was fired in August and two other senior CMAC officials were reassigned. The agency also has overhauled its financial computer systems and created a reform committee to outline how CMAC should operate in the future.
Ieng Mouly said the agency and the government are continuing to investigate allegations that land in Kampot province was demined for former Khmer Rouge commander Chhouk Rin.
He also said that two people who admitted taking $75,000 of CMAC’s government funds have agreed to give the money back and currently are negotiating with the Ministry of Finance how that money should be returned. But Ieng Mouly said he did not know if the two would face criminal prosecution—one of the requirements made by the donor community for CMAC officials found guilty of fraud.
Without the resumption of donor aid, CMAC—which requires $800,000 monthly to operate—will run out of money at the end of October and already is experiencing logistical problems, according to Richard Warren, the donor community’s top adviser to the agency. But Warren said despite dwindling finances, CMAC still is able to effectively demine parts of Cambodia.
Ieng Mouly said Wednesday he has not yet heard from donors whether they will resume funding. Already, $1 million from the US has been lost. That money instead will go to The Halo Trust, one of Cambodia’s other demining agencies.