International donors to the Cambodian Mine Action Center decided Tuesday to wait for the release of an audit of donor funds later this month before considering resuming aid to the troubled agency, UN Development Program officials said.
“There is a positive feeling among donors but we are not where we want to be,” UNDP Resident Representative Dominique McAdams said after a donor meeting Tuesday night.
The donors’ decision could put increased financial strain on the agency, which is running out of money and faces at least a partial shut down at the end of October without donor aid.
Funding to CMAC must resume by the beginning of October in order for the agency to continue paying its employees’ salaries, McAdams said. According to a senior Western CMAC official, the agency will need about $1.5 million for the remainder of the year.
But McAdams said she will likely turn down the donors’ request for a preliminary draft of the audit to possibly turn on some emergency funding to keep CMAC running.
A first draft could be finished late next week, CMAC officials said. But McAdams said she wants to wait until the final draft is presented—fearing that any premature information without CMAC management’s responses could be misinterpreted.
In July an audit of the government’s CMAC funding discovered widespread misallocation and mismanagement of money, sparking allegations of fraud within the agency and a closer look at international aid to CMAC.
In response to this first audit, donors gave CMAC a list of 32 short- and mid-term reforms in early August that have to be completed for the resumption of aid. While CMAC officials have taken some steps toward completing these reforms and overhauling the agency’s financial system, several end-of-August deadlines were missed, further lowering donor confidence.
Though they are encouraged by steps CMAC has taken to correct its financial practices, several donors said this week they still may pull their money from the agency if it does not make a true commitment to reform.
“As long as the problems go on, we’re just not going to fund CMAC. If they don’t understand that, we will pull away and look at other demining avenues,” US Ambassador Kent Wiedemann said Tuesday night.
CMAC already has lost a $1 million cash contribution from the US that was suspended following the discovery of mismanaged government funds to the agency. Wiedemann declined to say how he recommended the US State Department use the money but said he does want it committed to demining operations in Cambodia.
Two other donor nations also have suspended funding to Cambodia’s largest demining agency, pending the release of the audit.
Australia, one of CMAC’s larger contributors, has no money in the pipeline yet for the agency, according to AusAID Director Bill Costello. But he said there has been no discussion of letting CMAC fold and using one of Cambodia’s two other demining agencies, MAG or HALO Trust.
“That is not the objective. CMAC does by far the most demining,” Costello said. “But an unsatisfactory response to the donor framework would put us in a difficult position when going to our governments asking for money.”
CMAC’s governing council—its policy-making arm—met Monday to approve an action plan for continuing reform in the agency, CMAC Chairman Ieng Mouly said Tuesday. A newly formed planning committee has to devise a reform proposal for the governing council, Ieng Mouly said.