NEGLIGENT management procedures and apparent outright fraud has rendered the
Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) unable to account for huge areas
supposedly demined in 1998.
That was the message contained within an
internal CMAC document supplied to the Phnom Penh Post.
The internal memo
specifies irregularities that were hinted at in a report to donors that they
received early this week.
The revelations within the memo are another
blow to the government organization still reeling from weeks of successive
disclosures in the local and international media about managerial
The 21 page document supplied to the Post was circulated to a
select number of foreign CMAC Technical Assistants (TA) late last week and was
not intended for public disclosure.
The report's purpose was to generate
TA feedback regarding discrepancies in official CMAC accounts of where CMAC
demining units were active in 1998 and what exactly they
The report is explicit in its analysis of the problem in
CMAC control procedures for keeping track of the activities and productivity of
its demining platoons.
"CMAC does not know with any clarity, completeness
or accuracy in which minefields CMAC conducted operations in 1998, and of those,
which ones were completed," it said.
Such shoddy management practices,
the report points out, are a violation of CMAC's raison d'être and a betrayal of
the trust of the foreign donors who fund 97% of CMAC's annual operating
"Since demined land is CMAC's most important and visible output
and since demined land is needed so that CMAC can achieve its donor stipulated
objective of humanitarian distribution of land it is not unreasonable to assume
that CMAC would have a clear and concrete idea, in real time, of land it demined
By comparing the accounts of demined land contained within
weekly progress reports filed by Demining Units in the field with those within
"closing reports" compiled at CMAC headquarters when minefields are determined
to have been completely demined, the unnamed author of the report discovered
In particular, a discrepancy of twenty square
kilometers exists in the amount of land certified in the two kinds or reports as
officially demined, a figure equivalent to "about a year and a half of work by
[all] CMAC demining platoons [combined]."
"discrepancies" in CMAC's accounting of its 1998 demining activities are listed
within the report as follows:
1. Demining units halted work in a large number of locations across
Cambodia, but for many of these locations there is no evidence that demining had
actually been completed.
2. The number of minefields in which demining operations were halted
but for which no completion report was forwarded "appears to be too large
for...seasonal or security changes."
3. Among minefields certified as cleared in 1998, "there's a
substantial number where there is no evidence...that work was done in these
minefields in 1998."
4. In a small number of cases, "minefields where work was reported to
operations as ongoing in 1998 had according to [the CMAC] database already been
demined in earlier years."
According to the report, the most serious
discrepancies occurred in Demining Unit #3 in Kampot Province, which was
implicated earlier this month in a scheme to fraudulently obtain Royal funds for
CMAC management coffers by having deminers sign false pay receipts for money
they never received.
"Among the minefields that Demining Unit #3
reported [that] operations were being carried out in 1998 were three minefields.
. . which according to database records, had been cleared in 1997 (twice) and
The report notes that Demining Unit #3's productivity
in 1998 - 1,402,164 square meters of minefields cleared - was less than half of
what it should have been based on a weekly productivity rate that was 83% of
what Demining Unit # 3 generally reported.
Taken together, the CMAC
internal report suggests that Demining Unit #3 might well have spent much of
1998 fraudulently hiring out demining services to private interests.
seems it is reasonable to ask where else did these demining platoons work and
The report concludes by suggesting that the CMAC management be
held culpable for the managerial negligence or outright corruption that has
allowed this situation to occur.
"The contradictions noted. . . seem
unlikely to have occurred if there had been the kind of monitoring that common
sense would dictate."
Post requests for comment on the leaked report from
local embassies of major CMAC foreign donors Australia and Canada went
Within CMAC itself, Director General Sam Sotha did not
respond to the Post's request for feedback on the report.
to Ieng Mouly, the Chairman of CMAC's Governing Council, contacted the Post on
Monday afternoon asking for a copy of the report received by the Post "to
compare with the one we have," but refused requests to meet with Mouly to
discuss the reports findings.
Paul Mathews, Resident Representative of
the United Nations Development Program which operates a trust fund that
disperses 90% of CMAC's annual operating budget, was cautious in his appraisal
of the implications of the leaked document.
"CMAC is an organization that
is barely five years old and has grown very fast. . .it's perhaps inevitable
that some things will be overlooked," he said.
However, Mathews made it
quite clear that if the leaked report's suggestions of CMAC fraud are proven
true, foreign donors will expect decisive action to address the problems in the
"If [the report's allegations] are confirmed, we hope CMAC will
take action, but if they don't donors will insist they do."