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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CMAC mine stats flawed

CMAC mine stats flawed

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

corruption.

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

accomplished.

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

budget.

"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

and where."

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

serious contradictions.

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]."

Four additional

"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

1994 respectively."

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.

"It

seems it is reasonable to ask where else did these demining platoons work and

for whom?"

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

unanswered.

Within CMAC itself, Director General Sam Sotha did not

respond to the Post's request for feedback on the report.

An assistant

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

organization.

"If [the report's allegations] are confirmed, we hope CMAC will

take action, but if they don't donors will insist they do."

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