CMAC Claims Audit Shows Mismanagement, Not Misuse

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.


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