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In defense of local NGOs

Dear Editor,

Recent investigations into allegations of mismanagement within a few local non-government

organisations (LNGOs) have brought to the fore the issue of corruption in LNGOs in

Cambodia. We welcome these criticisms as an opportunity to reflect upon LNGO activities.

Not all LNGOs mismanage. Not all LNGOs, not even most LNGOs, are "deceitful

in their practices" ('Dubious practices', PPP, April 26-May 9, 2002). It is

a pity that the allegations leveled by the two foreigners were asserted as "the

RULE rather than the exception" ('NGO cheats', PPP, May 10-23, 2002).

It is true that a number of LNGOs mismanage, and we do not condone these LNGOs. It

is also true that many LNGOs have put in place mechanisms to ensure accountability

and transparency such as functional boards of directors, regular financial and programme

audit and evaluation by internationally recognised companies.

LNGOs have only recently emerged in Cambodia, and are currently and constantly working

to improve their operations, at both the administrative and programme levels. Efforts

include the promotion of an NGO code of ethics, a strong focus on training in financial

management, and discussion on the role of boards of directors and how to make them

more effective.

We would like to remind readers that LNGOs only receive 10% of all funds allocated

to non-government organ-isations' activities in Cambodia. (See General information

of NGO statement to the 2001 Consultative Group meeting.) LNGOs operate in the remotest

areas of Cambodia, where the government cannot reach, thus providing crucial counterpart

contribution to the gov-ernment's priority objective of poverty alleviation.

In short, most LNGOs contribute significantly and positively to rebuilding the country

and strengthening democracy. It seems this contribution is not understood, or has

been ignored, by the two critics of Cambodia's LNGOs.

It is not productive to accuse all LNGOs or all women's LNGOs of corruption. Targeted

allegations provide the impetus for improvement. Broad generalisations will do nothing

but destroy our legitimate attempts to build civil society in Cambodia.

Mr. Thun Saray, President, ADHOC

Ms. Chheun Thavy, Execcutive Director, Banteay Srey

Mr. Koul Panha, Executive Director, COMFREL

Ms. Chea Vannath, President, CSD

Ms. Oung Chanthol, Executive Director, CWCC

Ms. Ros Sopheap, Executive Director, GAD

Ms. Koy Veth, Executive Director, KWVC

Mr. Yong Kim Eng, President, KYA

Mr. Hang Puthea, Executive Director, NICFEC

Mr. Russell Peterson, Representative, NGO Forum

Ms. Boua Chanthou, Director, PADEK

Ms. Hor Phally, Director, PADV

Ms. Khus Thida, C.Executive Director SILAKA

Mr. Nhek Sarin, Exec. Director, Star Kampuchea

Mr. Phuong Sith, Executive Director, Vigilance

Ms. Tiv Sarayet, Executive Director, WMC

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