Search form

Login - Register | FOLLOW US ON

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - UN's man takes blast over CMAC

UN's man takes blast over CMAC

THREE former top-level Senior Technical Advisors of the Cambodian Mine Action

Center (CMAC) have fingered CMAC's United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Coordinator

Richard Warren as responsible for many of the problems that have shaken the demining

organization in recent months.

The Phnom Penh Post has obtained copies of official "End of Mission Reports"

written by former CMAC Senior Technical Advisor (STA) Finance Caroline Muller, CMAC

Chief Advisor of Support Stuart Press and CMAC Chief Technical Advisor for Planning

Tom McCartern.

The allegations by the three former CMAC Technical Advisors (TAs) widen the taint

of scandal and impropriety that have dogged CMAC for months by directly implicating

Warren as at least partly responsible for CMAC's institutional woes.

Previous revelations of irregularities within the demining organization have focused

on alleged indiscretions of CMAC Director General Sam Sotha and the recently proven

instances of contract demining by CMAC platoons in Kampot and Kampong Speu for luminaries

such as former Khmer Rouge Colonel Chouk Rin and current Royal Cambodian Armed Forces

Commander-in-Chief Ke Kim Yan.

Muller, Press and McCartern all resigned on June 22 in the wake of rumors about major

disagreements between themselves and Richard Warren.

The three "End of Mission Reports", written independently by each of the

former CMAC TAs, explicitly blame Warren for obstructing their attempts to institute

much-needed institutional reform within the demining organization

Caroline Muller's appraisal of the lack of a credible management response to months

of increasingly lurid disclosures of fraud within CMAC reflect the frustration experienced

by many within the organization.

"...In these past three months no decisive action other than denying the allegations

in the press was taken in spite of the positive plans and advice given by the Chief

Advisors Planning and Support for the organization in general and by myself for the

Finance Department," Muller said in her report.

All three former TAs accuse Warren of actively and systematically preventing CMAC

staff from addressing the aspects of CMAC's organization that have hindered transparency

and fostered fraud.

"Obstruction, condemnation or victimization to orchestrate a regular changeover

of key advisors has been used to counter reports, inquiries or advice provided by

series of international advisors and project staff to correct these problems,"

Press wrote in his report.

"The Programme Co-ordinator [Richard Warren] controls by failing to delegate

and communicate, undermining the work of advisors and management, manipulating terms

of reference to apparently centralize control of a regulatory number of technical

functions, failing to report known irregularities in a timely manner, centralizing

and withholding information and failing to follow appropriate channels of communication."

Tom McCartern perceived the recent scandal over contract demining by CMAC platoons

in Kampot and Kampong Speu as proof of Warren's lack of managerial competence.

"The fact that the core activity of CMAC has been allowed to deteriorate to

the point where the demining actions were out of control should be of great concern

to CMAC," McCartern wrote. "(This scandal) confirms the disquiet of the

funding countries and agencies regarding the management of CMAC, in particular the

management of operations and the quality of advice being given by [Richard Warren]."

McCartern further urged that Warren be immediately replaced by an individual "better

qualified" for the position.

"I personally do not consider [Richard Warren] to be qualified or experienced

technically or managerially to hold the posts of Programme Coordinator and/or Chief

Technical Advisor," McCartern advised.

In an oblique reference to CMAC Chairman Ieng Mouly's ill-fated attempt last month

to have Warren ousted from his position, McCartern added: "...These opinions

[about Warren] were not passed to the Khmer [management], who reached the same conclusion

quite independently."

More damaging allegations about Warren's management of CMAC TAs are raised in STA

Finance Caroline Muller's report.

According to Muller, Warren was consistently unwilling to facilitate her position's

raison d'etre of establishing a computerized financial control system to remedy a

current system plagued by fraud, misappropriation and lack of transparency.

"It was apparent from the beginning [of my employment at CMAC] that there was

a considerable level of mismanagement and probable misappropriation of [CMAC] funds,"

she wrote. "...A package of solutions...was not presented [by Warren to donors

and CMAC management]. This was illustrative [of] the way advice was taken on; usually

there would be no response from the Programme Coordinator."

Muller confessed to being prepared for resistance to her proposed financial reforms

from Khmer management, but was mystified to encounter "...the lack of program

coordination and the lack of willingness for cooperation from the Program Coordinator...

further hampering the effectiveness of my advice and support."

"I accepted the difference in interest and objectives between myself and the

[Khmer] management as part of the working conditions," she noted. "This

acceptance I could not extrapolate to the level of Programme Coordinator

Muller charges that Warren effectively tied her hands in terms of coming to grips

with CMAC's financial irregularities.

"[Richard Warren] tried to dissuade me from involvement in Funds other than

the UNDP Trust Fund and some directly internationally-funded projects," Muller

wrote. "I could not agree on this as CMAC is one financial entity and its accounts

cannot be seen as fragmented ... [a] holistic approach is necessary because otherwise

double-budgeting and expense declarations aren't identified."

Stuart Press goes even further in his allegations of Warren's "obstruction"

of Muller's proposed financial accounting reforms.

"In the past six months the STA Finance has been denied reasonable access to

[CMAC's] books of account on many occasions," Press wrote.

"Financial records covering several years of transactions have been lost or

destroyed. It is considered that the work of the STA Finance has been substantially

undermined by [Warren] for the past nine months."

Reservations about Warren's role as CMAC's UNDP Programme Coordinator are apparently

not limited to Press, Muller and McCartern.

A current CMAC TA who spoke to the Post on the condition of anonymity reinforces

the observations of the three former STAs regarding Warren's management style.

"If a TA asks about any CMAC problem that [Warren] sees as 'intrusive', he responds

with lines like 'Don't get into politics' or 'This is a Khmer organization,"

the TA said.

Another former CMAC STA defended Warren, calling the focus on his assumed wrongdoing

"unfair".

"UNDP has a greater responsibility [for CMAC's problems] than Richard Warren,"

the former STA insisted. "To focus on one man is misstating the problem...the

real problem is UNDP."

Tim Lardner, the former Senior Technical Advisor in Kampong Thom who first exposed

the issue of double-signing for salaries within Demining Unit 4 earlier this year,

says that UNDP and Warren are both deserving of blame for mismanagement bordering

on negligence.

"UNDP were informed of the issue of double-billing of salaries in Kampong Thom

at exactly the samtime that Richard Warren was because the letter informing Warren

was copied to [then-UNDP Resident Representative] Paul Mathews," Lardner informed

the Post by email from where he now lives in England.

"The response from Richard Warren was to pass the buck across to Sam Sotha and

sit back. They both waited until we forced the issue again and then only after the

affair moved into the public domain."

According to Lardner, UNDP inaction rather than Richard Warren's competence was "the

real issue".

"UNDP backed [Warren], who was having difficulties coping with the job as well

as suffering a significant amount of stress and who additionally lost the confidence

of all his staff (60+ TAs) and a good proportion of the Khmer staff," Lardner

wrote.

"As well as this, [Warren] was failing to take action on serious matters - again

of which UNDP were aware, but UNDP was apparently content to let matters continue,

and took no apparent action to remedy what were clearly visible serious problems

with the programme and with their programme manager."

When contacted by the Post on Wednesday afternoon regarding the reports written by

Press, Muller and McCartern, Warren himself said he had not yet had time to read

them and deferred comment to a later date.

"Essentially the allegations are difficult to respond to in the short time available

(before Post press time)," Warren explained.

Efforts by the Post to meet with CMAC Director General Sam Sotha and CMAC Governing

Council Chairman Ieng Mouly were unsuccessful.

Although unaware of the specific allegations raised by Press, Muller and McCartern,

Australia's Ambassador Malcolm Leader, who represents one of CMAC's largest foreign

donors, expressed ambiguity about the rumors that have swirled around Warren in recent

months.

"Richard Warren is the UN's nominee," Leader told the Post in an interview

on Tuesday. "We don't have a view of him one way or another."

0

Comments

Please, login or register to post a comment

Latest Video

Turkish Embassy calls for closure of Zaman schools

With an attempted coup against the government of President Recep Erdogan quashed only days ago and more than 7,000 alleged conspirators now under arrest, the Turkish ambassador to Cambodia yesterday pressed the govern

CNRP lawmakers beaten

Two opposition lawmakers, Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Sakphea were beaten unconscious during protests in Phnom Penh, as over a thousand protesters descended upon the National Assembly.

Student authors discuss "The Cambodian Economy"

Student authors discuss "The Cambodian Economy"

Students at Phnom Penh's Liger Learning Center have written and published a new book, "The Cambodian Economy".