Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Halo bid challenge falls short

Halo bid challenge falls short

Halo bid challenge falls short

A deminer gestures toward a pair of anti-tank mines and other remnants of unexploded ordnance displayed in Kampong Chhnang province in 2008.

More than 440 Cambodian landmine clearers could be laid off after a charity organisation lost a court challenge over a £3.5 million (US$5.5 million) United Kingdom government contract in Cambodia.

Last week, the England and Wales High Court handed down its judgement for a legal challenge brought by mine-clearing charity Halo against the Department for International Development following the awarding of a de-mining contract to rival Mines Advisory Group.

Halo’s barrister, Mark Clough QC, argued the awarding of the contract to MAG breached procurement rules, asking that the contract be set aside pending trial.

But High Court judge Mr Justice Akenhead ruled the claims by Halo were “relatively weak” and a delay in operations to wait for a trial would “be bad for the people of Cambodia as well as the two charities”.

“Even if I had concluded that there was a serious issue to be tried, I would have found that the balance of convenience was such that DFID should no longer be restrained from entering into its proposed contract with MAG,” Justice Akenhead said.

Guy Willoughby, director of Halo, said yesterday the loss of the contract would likely result in retrenchment of 440 of its 1,000 local personnel.

“We train local Cambodians from those communes in which we are operating,” Willoughby said.

“That has the most direct impact, in that over 400 families will no longer have a breadwinner.”

The major issues Halo identified in court were a perceived lack of transparency in the tendering process, the move by DFID to link mine clearing with development aid, and a belief the Halo bid offered better value for money.

Mr Willoughby was particularly concerned about the focus by MAG on only demining areas where other development agencies were located.

“We believe now that this project will prove demining [only] where there are follow-on international development agencies will marginalise the poorest communities.”

Justice Akenhead said the complaint by Halo was too late and “a challenge to the strategy would need to have been made many months ago in the Administrative Court by way of judicial review”.

Although the judgement did not support Halo’s claim, the judge noted both landmine clearing organisations would continue their important work in Cambodia, with Halo’s $55 million annual funding coming from a variety of governments and private donors.

“There can be no doubt on the evidence before this Court that both Halo and MAG have been doing extremely worthwhile work in Cambodia in connection with the clearance of landmines and other ordnance,” Justice Akenhead said.

“Nothing which I have said in this judgement should in any way be taken as meaning or implying any criticism of either organisation for the work which they have done in that regard and will continue to do.”
A spokesman for DFID could not be contacted yesterday.


  • Stock photo agencies cash in on Khmer Rouge tragedy
    Stock-photo companies selling images from S-21 raises ethics concerns

    A woman with short-cropped hair stares directly into the camera, her head cocked slightly to the side. On her lap is a sleeping infant just barely in the frame. The woman was the wife of a Khmer Rouge officer who fell out of favour, and

  • Prime Minister: Take back islands from inactive developers

    The government will “take back” land on roughly 30 islands from private companies that have not made progress on planned developments, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech on Monday that also targeted land-grabbing villagers and idle provincial governors. Speaking at the inauguration of the

  • Land on capital’s riverfront is opened up for investment

    The government has signed off on a proposal to designate more than 9 hectares of land along Phnom Penh’s riverfront as state-private land, opening it up for private investment or long-term leasing. The 9.25-hectare stretch of riverfront from the capital’s Night Market to the

  • Royal Group's Koh Rong luxury hotel officially opens

    The Royal Sands Koh Rong hotel on Monday marked its official launch as the first luxury resort on Cambodia’s most visited island. Prime Minister Hun Sen presided over the inauguration of the hotel, which has been open since December, and features rooms priced at