The Swedish NGO Forum Syd decided Thursday to cease all future support of the Cambodian Institute for Human Rights and is demanding more than $20,000 be returned to the organization.
In a letter to the CIHR, donors and diplomats, Forum Syd states that it will “terminate co-operation with CIHR with immediate effect” because of mismanagement of funds, which was reported in an investigation by the international auditing firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
“When the allegations of financial mismanagement arose, three advisers worked at CIHR for several months trying to sort out the main problems of CIHR, but due to limited willingness of cooperation of the staff, the advisers could not accomplish sustainable improvements,” the letter, dated Thursday, said.
Forum Syd approved $116,000 in assistance to the Institute during 2001 and 2002 and disbursed $40,000 to the human rights NGO, said Lars-Erik Mackhe, field director for Forum Syd in Cambodia. Forum Syd will not disburse any more of the pledge and demanded that the CIHR return at least $20,000 in “misused funds.”
CIHR Director Kassie Neou, implicated of financial irregularities by the auditor’s investigation, said Forum Syd’s decision is part of the typical year-end funding process. “All donors have to decide by the end of the year whether to continue funding and they only have two options—continue funding or stopping,” he said.
The letter from Forum Syd, however, stated that the reasons for ceasing funding include financial mismanagement and a lack of implementing institutional changes. “The CIHR has not cooperated well with Forum Syd. The internal management has not functioned well and the organization did not seem to be interested in being transparent,” the letter states.
Michael Barton, an official with Canada’s CIDA—another funding source for CIHR—said Thursday CIDA currently is not giving money to the CIHR. Nancy Hopkins, assistant representative with the Asia Foundation, declined to comment.