CMAC’s Finances Need Look, Expert Says

The Cambodian Mine Action Center, which decided last week to temporarily lay off nearly 70 percent of its workforce because it is running out of money, needs to tighten up its financial procedures, according to one Western observer who follows Cambodia’s demining programs.

“Every month, it’s the same story—CMAC needs money,” he said. “These guys need to take hold of themselves. They continually cry that they don’t have enough money when the answer is, trim back operations.”

CMAC runs the risk of “crying wolf” once too often, he said. “The donors may get tired of this.”

In the short term, however, it seems to be an effective tactic.

Demining is a popular issue with donors, and the UN De­velop­ment Program, which funnels money to CMAC from foreign donors through its demining trust fund, is expected to discuss the latest funding crisis at a meeting today.

Khem Sophoan, director-general of CMAC, said Tuesday the agency has done more than just complain about money.

He said CMAC has cut back significantly in the past few years, but its budget has fallen even faster, due primarily to reports of corruption within the agency over the past two years.

While the annual budget has dropped from a high of about $15 million to $9 million last year, Khem Sophoan said its workforce has been cut from a high of 3,310 to 2,866.

This year, he said, the budget is only $8.5 million, so the agency must cut an additional 1,937 workers from the rolls as of Nov 13 unless more money is forthcoming. Khem Sophoan said he expects the layoffs to be temporary, with those cut returning to work next January.

CMAC gets about 90 percent of its funding from foreign donors, including Japan, Aus­tralia and Britain.

Blaire Excell, the Australian Embassy’s first secretary for development, said he was surprised to hear CMAC was running out of cash again.

He noted that he Australian government said last month it would contribute an immediate $275,000 “as soon as possible [to] help to ensure CMAC’s immediate financial viability.”

Horiuchi Toshihiko, first secretary of the Japanese Embassy, said Japan decides annually what its contribution will be, and the country has already made its full donation for this fiscal year.

“We contributed about $900,000,” he said. “Japan has already done what it can do.” He said the amount of next year’s donation will be decided by the Japanese parliament, and that “we hope we can maintain our standard of the past few years.”

The other two major demining operations in Cambodia—the Mine Action Group and the Halo Trust—both said they have seen no fall-off in donations and are having no financial problems.




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