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'CMAC spends money like rich kids'

'CMAC spends money like rich kids'

ROYAL Advisor on Cambodian Mine Action Center Affairs Sam Sotha has praised Prime

Minister Hun Sen's rejection earlier this week of a plan to fire one-third of CMAC's

staff in an emergency cost-cutting measure as "very wise and humane".

The downsizing plan, the latest attempt by CMAC management to cope with a chronic

funding crisis created by lingering donor concerns about management and financial

fraud within the agency, was reportedly rejected by Hun Sen over concerns that a

reduction in demining platoons would slow nationwide demining efforts.

Sotha described CMAC's emphasis on the shortfall in donor funds as "unnecessary"

and attacked what he perceived as a culture of wasteful free-spending within CMAC's

Phnom Penh headquarters.

"For me [donor contributions] don't matter because CMAC Governing Council Chairman

Ieng Mouly has told me he expects to receive between six and seven million dollars

[from foreign donors] in 2000," he said. "It's enough money...even four

million dollars is enough."

Sotha, who was CMAC's Director General from 1995 to August 1999 until being dismissed

at the demand of foreign donors, managed CMAC with a more comfortable $9 million

dollar budget in his last year at the agency's helm.

"CMAC management's expenses are too high," Sotha told the Post. "They

act like...rich kids compared to the rest of the Cambodian government."

As an example of the type of "wasteful spending" he claimed was rife among

CMAC headquarters staff, Sotha described the amount of money allotted to "unnecessary"

travel expenses between Battambang and Phnom Penh for CMAC personnel as "a spending

spree".

"In 1999 $200,000 was spent by CMAC personnel on travel expenses between Phnom

Penh and Battambang," he said, adding that the majority of those claiming the

expenses "didn't even need to make the trip".

Battambang is the site of the agency's new "forward headquarters" and the

new center of CMAC's national demining efforts.

Sotha urged the cultivation of a "mentality of saving [money]" by CMAC

management in order to defuse the current cash crisis and reduce the dependence of

donor funding.

"Don't cry to the government or donors," Sotha urged. "CMAC has to

learn how to survive in the real world."

Attempts by the Post to contact CMAC Director General Khem Sophoan and Chairman of

CMAC's Governing Council Ieng Mouly regarding Sotha's comments were unsuccessful.

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