Cambodian Mine Action Center Chairman Ieng Mouly has implicated the Ministry of Finance in the agency’s money scandals and suggested Monday that the corruption allegations leveled against CMAC are indicative of institutionalized government-wide bribery.
At a meeting of CMAC’s governing council, UN Development Program representatives and ministry officials, Ieng Mouly confirmed that an estimated $75,000 in government funds meant for the agency instead was given to Finance Ministry officials responsible for releasing government money to CMAC.
“It may not be legal but in Cambodia every ministry has the same problem,” Ieng Mouly said after Monday’s meeting.
According to a CMAC official, the agency requested an estimated $760,000 from the government but only received roughly $685,000. The difference, the official said, went to “speed up the release of the funds.”
In July, Finance Minister Keat Chhon sent Ieng Mouly a letter that, among other things, asked that the money be returned.
Keat Chhon declined Monday to speak with The Cambodia Daily. The ministry’s director for internal finance, Mong Phan, said Monday by telephone he has not seen any evidence of bribery and could not comment.
The two men suspected of paying off ministry officials—former CMAC assistant director general Niem Chouleng and Seng Nim, an associate of Ieng Mouly who does not work at CMAC—were present at Monday’s meeting.
Both were asked to explain themselves but chose not to, according to current CMAC Director General Khem Sophoan, who said they have been asked to give the money back or face possible legal prosecution.
Ieng Mouly said an probe is likely to begin to find who in the Finance Ministry got the money.
Monday’s explanation about the missing $75,000 was meant to be an example of the ongoing reforms inside CMAC, which faces the loss of millions of dollars in donor funds without a clearly overhauled financial system.
Ieng Mouly also said a planning commission has been formed and an action plan will be submitted to donor nation representatives next week.
One Western CMAC official said that despite having a good meeting, it’s unclear if CMAC is truly addressing the donors’ demands. “There’s a clear message there has to be action. Just establishing a committee doesn’t get things done,“ the official said.
An independent audit released in July revealed widespread mismanagement and misallocation of donor funds, which make up at least 90 percent of CMAC’s budget. In response to the audit and reports of corruption within the agency, donor nations submitted a list of 32 demands to CMAC that for the first time tied the agency’s performance to funding. (Additional reporting by Ham Samnang and Lor Chandara)