Medical NGO Refuses to Reform, Loses Global Fund Financing

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has cut off all funding to MediCam for refusing to reform itself in the wake of a corruption scandal, bringing one of Cambodia’s largest NGO umbrella groups to the brink of collapse.

In a damning Global Fund report released late last year exposing years of corruption inside the Health Ministry, MediCam was also accused of using donations from the Global Fund to pay for two staff positions that did not exist. Though MediCam denied the allegations, it has since repaid $20,725 to the Global Fund.

In a recent email to its 100-plus member organizations, a copy of which was obtained Thursday, MediCam director Sin Somuny announced the Global Fund’s decision to “cut funding…effective immediately as of 4th April, 2014.”

The NGO now has only about $30,000 in membership fees to draw on, a small fraction of its $800,000 budget, Mr. Somuny said in the email.

Mr. Somuny said MediCam would need $130,000 just to “maintain the core functions of MediCam” and called on the NGO’s members to join an emergency meeting immediately after the Khmer New Year to figure out how to reach that target and keep MediCam alive.

The email did not explain Global Fund’s reasons for cutting its funding to MediCam.

Mr. Somuny could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Global Fund spokesman Seth Faison said MediCam lost its funding because it refused to reform.

“Following the Global Fund’s investigation report that was published in November 2013, the Global Fund sought agreement with MediCam to engage with key partners in Cambodia to undergo a comprehensive reform process in the coming months,” he said via email.

“MediCam has not agreed to the Global Fund’s request and its executive management team remains in place,” he said. “So the Global Fund has decided to stop financing MediCam and to work with other partners.”

In each country it donates to, the Global Fund uses a committee of government officials and NGO representatives to help watch over its money.

Sok Thim, a member of that committee here, said MediCam described the reasons for the funding cut in another group email sent this week.

According to that email, he said, “they [the Global Fund] asked MediCam to improve their financial management, their structure, but MediCam refused and chose to remain intact…. So the Global Fund reacted: ‘If you don’t [improve], we stop giving money.’”

Mr. Thim said he was doubtful that other donors would come to MediCam’s rescue if it did not reform.

“It’s hard to say,” he said. “Without their restructuring, I don’t know if they will be able to convince members.”

In recent years, MediCam has been one of the three umbrella groups in Cambodia representing the interests of NGOs at the government’s top-level meetings with its foreign donors.

Mr. Thim, who is also the director of the Cambodia Health Committee, an NGO that focuses on fighting tuberculosis and HIV, said there could be serious repercussions for the health sector if MediCam does not survive.

“MediCam sort of…spearheads the message for us to the upper levels of the government and the international community regarding our needs. Individually, NGOs don’t have much power,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Aun Pheap)

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