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After the Tsunami in Aceh Province (2006) PDF Printable Version E-mail

AFTER THE TSUNAMI IN ACEH PROVINCE 2006

David Wallis

Contact David by email:   and visit:  http://www.p3c-aceh.org/

Read David's reports for the year 2005 by clicking here.

Danormal_2kapal[1].jpgvid Wallis is a retired manager who now lives in Medan, on the Indonesian Island of Sumatra. In the early 1990's he worked at a cement factory (the only European among 600 workers) on the beach in Aceh Province and lived about 1 km away on the same beach. Forced to move to Medan by the insurgency in Aceh, he maintained contact with his many Indonesian friends.

Since the catastrophic tsunami of 26 December 2004, he has visited his former tsunamia_aceh[1].jpghome ground several times. He has become deeply involved in raising money and establishing schemes to bring aid to people living as refugees in the ruins of their own homes, many of them his friends of many years. David knows that they are likely to be in need for a long time to come. In his writing, he uses his wide experience of Indonesia to put the present problems into a deeply disturbing historical, cultural and economic context.

We met David over breakfast in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia in early March 2005. Since then, he has written to us and others of his experiences in a series of emails which are reproduced below:  

ACEH REPORT JANUARY 2006

Posko Mon Ikeun Lhoknga, Near Banda Aceh Indonesia.

David Wallis January 2006

You can be topic03.jpgo close to Aceh and in being so I can see many sides of a coin. Some of those (in fact many) are not good, as they reflect the lives of people who after 12 months are still living in either tents, temporary shelters or wooden barrack-type accommodation. Here we are talking thousands and most of those are fed up, bored, frustrated and losing hope. Another side of the coin shows NGO's, who seem to be living a rather different life and one that reflects luxury beyond acceptance. I am working for an Acehnese contractor and so I need building work from NGO's who have a lot of money – YOUR MONEY.

I also live on occasions with the displaced people, in tent number 25, Posko Mon man-without-leg.jpgIkeun - a part of Lhoknga village that is no more. You could say I have a foot in many camps and because of this I find myself in a dilemma that frustrates and annoys me intensely. A tsunami is hard to imagine if you have never experienced one, but here you don't have to be a survivor to realize its power and destructive capabilities – it is absolutely awesome.

Apart from taking lives and everything one possesses, this wave also wrecks the very fabric of living, and does it to such an extent that you think it is irreparable. Of course, life goes on, but how long will it take to materialize?

You cannot hman-with-broken-arm.jpgelp but change as a person under such circumstances, and it is those changes that sometimes produce a bad side of human behaviour. When you have nothing and have lost everything, it is natural to hold out your hands for help. In the early days (Jan-Mar 2005) that was not only understandable, it was also essential to survive, but now (12 months on) the hands are still outstretched. Some of that is genuine and some is not, and it is very difficult to know who deserves the extra assistance.

Privately a few friends support about 20 tsunami widoajun-banda-aceh.jpgws to the tune of Rp 500,000 per month (about US$50 each), but there are so many of them and all would like financial assistance. Every month an allowance of 12 kg of rice is given to each refugee by the World Food Program (WFP) and the Indonesian government pays a tsunami allowance (sometimes), which is the equivalent of US$9. This is enough for survival, but that is about all.

OnRiski.jpg the other hand, NGO's appear to be living rather well, what with more than decent salaries, top of the range land-cruisers, extremely nice offices and accommodation, and various other add-ons such as allowances, travel, R&R and other similar perks. Somewhere along the line our donor money is being misused and I believe something should be done about it. We will probably never know (despite so-called audits) exactly what happens to all the billions of dollars that have been donated to Aceh, but there is little doubt that this small fortune is more than enough to finance the rebuilding. So where is it all going and how many 'creamers' are there?

In that equation we must also include local people who have taken full advantage of timg5.jpghe NGO money, such that the rich have got richer and will continue to do so all the time this rebuilding drags its heels. The longer you stay here, the more you see, and a lot of that is cloaked in corruption of so many kinds. There are many cases of the tail wagging the dog, money thrown at projects that are not viable and have not been given enough thought, a general lack of co-ordination and bureaucracy that has almost strangled progress. All those things and others contribute towards the corruption of funds, let alone the administration costs of NGO's.

I write this maiimg1.jpgnly because I remember Aceh a long time ago, when it was simply a beautiful place filled with good memories of people who lived the life of fishermen and farmers in houses that blended in with the scenery. The rebuilding of Aceh may well produce more substantial houses and buildings, but this will never replace the Aceh I knew before. What is missing is the heart, the very pumping action that generated the character and life-blood of the region.

People are now clawing in all directions for many different reasons, and out of thaman-in-wheelchair.jpgt chaos will come a new Aceh that may not be the answer. We never seem to learn that first and foremost we have to put people's lives in the front line and to forget profit and whatever else motivates such a reconstruction exercise. In such a massive operation, perhaps that is not possible: with over 250 NGO's encamped, the objectives are a mixture of differing ideas, commitment and vision.

Just maybe some have learnt livelihood-support.jpgfrom their mistakes, but so often those who learn are not in a position to change things, so we continue down the path of arrogance and stupidity and whatever else contributes towards the inevitable chaos of the aid industry. Somebody famous once called them the 'Lords of Poverty' and perhaps he was not so far away from the truth.

I spent today in the campsite where childrimg3.jpgen happily played with no toys, mothers sat around talking about whatever mothers talk about, and men sat bored drinking coffee and then sleeping under the midday sun. It was just another day for them all, and tomorrow I will visit (cap in hand) the air-conditioned offices of the NGO's in the hope of winning their favour.

Am I a hypocrite? …….. Well of course I am, for how on earth do you think I will survive!

As I am English, perhaimg4.jpgps we should look at the 350 million pounds donated by the British public over 12 months ago, of which no more than a third has been spent. There are good reasons for this because progress in Aceh has been painfully slow but, having said that, the basic needs of the displaced people are always at the bottom of the pack. You don't see many NGO's in the camp sites, as they appear to be busy lap-topping their way through a system which looks impressive on the surface - but then what are they producing? A small example would be the 'Bioremediation infield Personal unit' and you would be excused for not knowing what that is. In fact it is a toilet and waste water system, so why the hell don't they call it that instead of a BiPu? Such things are installed in the name of progress and I guess we can't argue with that. The toilet I use at the moment is a foot-shaped hole cut out of a steel plate from which a smell of urine comes. This toilet is housed in a small wooden cubicle with a door which you can look over and it has a tin corrugated roof to protect you from the rains. They have been there for over twelve months and facilities for women are exactly the same. People come in all shapes and sizes, they are young and old and some are not in the best of health. No matter the differences, the toilets remain as they are.

In a nutshell, the first year in tsunami land has been a realization that all the way alongimg2.jpg this Aid avenue are systems and people who have no real idea about human dignity and suffering. They are so-called professionals in the various fields of reconstruction and most of them talk out of their backsides – when indeed they talk at all. They compete with each other for projects; put up their signs in areas where they are doing nothing at all and try to muscle in on other NGO's so as to take credit and whatever else will do their organization good. Purchase orders are being placed with companies who in turn pass the work on to family members or friends, who in turn pass it on to others. The price keeps reducing so that at the end of the chain is a so-called builder who is laying bricks in a manner which reflects his small profit, while all those who have passed the work on have creamed off a percentage.

'We must place orders with the company that quoted the lowest price' say NGO's 'as we have an obligation to our donors' – that is you and me (i.e. Joe Soap). It would seem that our procurement professionals have not heard of 'best value'. I travelled back to Medan from Banda Aceh with a young Indonesian man, a qualified mechanical and civil engineer, who had had a job as a project engineer with a well-known NGO that has a red cross as a symbol. His English was excellent and he said he was amazed (in fact gob- smacked) at the lack of management capabilities and discipline within the NGO organization. What surprised me was the fact that he was now out of a job at a time when the rebuilding is expected to accelerate from crawling pace to an acceptable level of achievement. He never said a word in malice, just simply that he was going home to Java disillusioned.

I think the NGO's have exposed themselves to the Acehnese as people who have the necessary technology, education and qualifications, but also as organizations which simply cannot put into effect their promises and expertise. This says very little for our trumpeted humanity and most generous donations.

But let's not just look at the West, as Japan is in the same boat – much money donated and little spent. Something like 250 containers of much-needed aid have remained in Indonesian ports for nearly 12 months awaiting clearance. Approval for some was given in November but by then storage fees had ballooned to Rp 65million (US$ 6,915) and there is more to pay. In among this chaos are 58 vehicles from foreign donors and the quote from the Customs chief was 'clearance is not as straightforward as you think'.

While we commiserate with the over-stressed Customs chief, my mind goes back to the early months after the tsunami when many street markets in Indonesia were busy selling tsunami donated supplies. Last month I mentioned the tail wagging the dog – and all this chaos because we are so generous, good-hearted and downright stupid.

The brick wall they all hide behind is the one that tells us they are trying their best under the most difficult of circumstances and that wall was built a long time before any victims had sight of a new house. Somebody over there in the UK should be standing up in parliament and giving whoever is responsible a right going over and demanding a report which we can all believe. Audit reports are simply not good enough, as they consist of masses of pieces of paper, channelled into convenient columns to make the books balance. Each and every NGO should be forced to make a readable report on its activities, achievements, failures, problems, expenditure and whatever else is applicable.

At the sharp end of this exercise are a number of people who are struggling to raise a few hundred dollars to help people out in the real sense of the word. It is frustrating and annoying and makes you feel like setting fire to an NGO 4x4 brand new US$ 35,000 land cruiser – and that I suppose is arson.

In the meantime, I read that the Disasters and Emergencies Committee (DEC) say 'The British public should be clear about two things – firstly that the money they generously gave has been used to save the lives of many thousands and improve the lives of millions – and secondly that the DEC agencies will not shy away from learning and acting on the lessons from earlier reports.' My response to this statement would be – firstly, there were not thousands of lives saved, as most people unfortunately died from the tsunami – end of story. Secondly, there are not millions of people involved, and only a few thousand have seen any improvement in their lives.

As for learning lessons, well anybody who has been to Aceh could not help but learn something. However, of all lessons to be learnt, the greatest one would be how to stay focused in alleviating the suffering of those at the bottom of the pack. These are people who cannot help themselves or make any significant inroads into the decision-making, who sit around bored and frustrated for month on end while organizations run about in flash cars like chickens with no heads. It would do them all good to come down to the camp site and spend a few days at Rp 35,000 (US$ 4) per day clearing up tsunami rubbish. That is less than one hundred dollars per month. The NGO man I met in Medan, who turned Aceh down because he could earn US$ 150 per day in Sudan, would do well to keep away from these shores.

Angry – yes I am, and tired of excuses and of a system (systems) that reflect an arrogance and greed that I find repulsive.

That wave was horrendous, it tore the very heart out of Aceh and many other locations – but the scars being left now are man-made and sadly disgraceful.

Joe Soap, like the Acehnese refugees, deserves the truth, but who will tell that story?

New Entry on 12 March 2006

A copy of David's writings on the situation in Aceh, one year after the tsunami, was sent to Christian Aid by a person who worked for many years in south Asia and who continues to be deeply involved in, and concerned for, the processes of aid delivery after disasters, natural or man-made.

The following response was sent to this person by Sandrine Jackson (email: ) on behalf of Daleep Mukarji, Director, Christian Aid, 35 Lower Marsh, London SE1 7RL, United Kingdom.

Christian Aid have produced a report entitled 'Rebuilding after the Tsunami'   (www.christianaid.org.uk)

2 March 2006

Aceh One Year after the Tsunami (Comment on David Wallis's writing from Christian Aid).

"I have read the material from David Wallis in Banda Aceh. We can understand some of his feelings and criticisms. Those who are there and see the suffering are rightly emotional and deeply disappointed when they see the 'professional aid agencies' somehow not delivering. Thanks for defending us! We have this problem of individuals after a major disaster – who genuinely do some good – then feel all the others are almost doing no good.

Let me try to put this into perspective:

I am sending by post to you 2 copies of a booklet of Christian Aid responding one year after the Tsunami which was sent to many of our supporters. You may want to pass one on to Mr. Wallis.

Secondly, we need to put this whole disaster into perspective. All the UK aid agencies together are putting in less than 5% of the aid response to the Tsunami. It is also for local governments, the UN agencies, international institutions and the wider donor community (including DfID) to respond.

In all disasters there will sadly be some who get help too late (or little or none) and others who get too much! Because we work through local organisations who are often there when the disaster hits we can, I believe, respond better. Recent evaluations of our work have shown that where we work we are working in keeping with best practice, helping people in need and taking the long term perspective – of rehabilitation and rebuilding lives.

Now let me try to respond, for you, to some of the specific comments.

Over the million square miles (or whatever the tsunami damage covered in all the countries that it affected), it is sadly unsurprising that there are still many places with unfortunate people who have received either a minimum of aid or, worse, no aid at all. It is a massive undertaking to address all of the damage, especially in countries or districts where the infrastructure was weak to begin with, like parts of northern Sumatra. Places near to large centres of habitation or where roads and bridges were not too heavily damaged are the easiest to get aid to, but the nature of the north of the island of Sumatra allows for plenty of isolated villages - indeed, our Programme Manager there, Klaus Peters, has just completed a trip around the west coast and inland to visit partners and he confirms that their programmes are effective, but that there are many areas that they cannot cover as they do not have the capacity.

It is easy to criticise NGOs, as Mr. Wallis does, on their salaries, cars, offices and so on, and it is easy also for him to make his comment: "somewhere along the line our donor money is being misused and I believe something should be done about it". It implies that he has a grip of the problem, but actually has no real substance behind what he says. Aid agencies are an easy target, as we are full of well-meaning people who tend not to argue back, and certainly cannot address every complaint like this one. I would also be interested to know his source of information behind the statement he makes: "there is little doubt that this small fortune is more than enough to finance the rebuilding". To start with, it is no small fortune and estimates for rebuilding vary between US$7 and 10 billion for the whole response. All aid agencies are very sensitive about accountability, media scrutiny and criticisms like this. We are keen to tell our story and be more transparent. He can check our websites.

With regard to corruption, we are all aware of the detrimental effect that this has on any programme, but again Mr. Wallis makes no new point and gives no examples. You and I have worked in South Asia and are aware of the potential of corruption there and elsewhere. Again Christian Aid has to be open and strict about procedures. I am not aware of any fraud in our work.

Mr. Wallis might like to think of the response to Hurricane Katrina and how it destroyed New Orleans, a major city in the richest, most powerful country on the planet. The US government had unlimited funds, no external co-ordination problems brought about by having hundreds of foreign NGOs arriving to help, and excellent infrastructure including transportation, communication and logistics, a simple decision-making process, local 'experts' on call, i.e. all that you could hope to have in place for a perfect disaster response and look at what resulted from that. How can one expect better in Banda Aceh?

Of course we would all like to see all of the money spent effectively and with no wastage. I hope that the Christian Aid tsunami response mirrors this! The fact is, however, that not all aid agencies are the same; in fact, the more new ones we come across, the less I see that they share the same values and feeling of responsibility for beneficiaries and programme that certainly we and other DEC members generally have. That said, a fantastic amount of work has been carried out on an unprecedented scale by many, many agencies. We are by no means complacent in our own response and welcome constructive criticism but we are proud of the response that Christian Aid has made to date with the help and support we have given to partners and through them to more than 500,000 beneficiaries in the three countries in which we have responded.

I hope this helps. I do not want to be too defensive but I do believe he has us wrong.

Daleep Mukarji

Director, Christian Aid"

David Wallis replied to Christian Aid from Aceh on 8 March 2006

"Thank you for the email and for the comments made, which were most helpful and interesting. It is always difficult to know where to start as regards to a tragedy of such a scale as was Aceh province. I am a 'freelance' operator who has spent the best part of ten years in Aceh especially along the west coast area. I was also the purchasing manager for the local cement works at Lhoknga and, in being so, experienced a massive amount of corruption both within the company and generally in the region.

You talk of proof as regards to corruption which is understandable but it is not quite as simple as that and those that have worked in such circumstances will know that the legal system in Indonesia has very little to do with justice – it simply loves money. The waste of donors' money I believe is huge and in my travels as a freelance I have talked to many people within various organizations – they were all private conversations but in general indicated not a lot of what I would call commitment.

Maybe I expect too much from people who often only think of their salaries, working conditions, rest opportunities etc. After spending at least three months (Jan-Mar 2005) living in the tents with the displaced Acehnese people, perhaps I was coming from a situation that was stressful and therefore was over-critical of what I saw in Banda Aceh and in Medan, North Sumatra as regards to aid organizations. In none of my writings have I accused any of the aid organizations of fraud but I have more than indicated that money is grossly wasted which means management is poor.

That I will stick with, despite the fact that there are people who are trying to find the best and quickest way to be effective. I have never seen so many expensive cars in a place that virtually has little roads worth talking about and the survey carried out by an independent concern showed that most NGO's had little to no maintenance plans in place. This was one area that clearly needed co-ordination and co-operation but there was very little to be seen. It has clearly been a competition to provide whatever, with a number of aid organizations taking photos of situations and no doubt ploughing them onto their websites.

With due respect to Christian Aid and all other charitable organizations, most people do not believe what they read in the way of reports as time and time again figures have been doctored to make a situation or a company look like something that it is not. You cannot obtain proof as most cases only come to the surface via a whistle-blower or for political reasons etc. You cannot blame people for not believing figures, reports, official rhetoric etc – unfortunately it's just the world we live in (double standards). I never wrote one word that was based on emotion, although I admit to losing probably 1,000 friends in Aceh.

The first few weeks were understandably the worst, but then things needed to be done and quickly. Privately I help some UK friends support amputees in Banda Aceh and the same circle of people provide funds that we give to Acehnese widows every month. I meet with them in a small temporary house at Lhoknga every month and although we only help 20 widows, 100% of the cash goes to the needy. When I asked a number of large organizations for some help I was told we didn't qualify and their system confirmed this. Most of those NGO's are sitting on millions of dollars and we spend day-in and day-out trying to find people who will donate 100 pounds or even 50 pounds or even 5pounds.

I have nothing against systems that work and clearly what happened in the first year after the tsunami showed that NGO systems did not work and many were a total waste of time. There is even a church in Oxford, who I have never heard of, that sent a donation and this was because someone in the congregation thought that direct help to people was worthwhile – he had read some of my Aceh reports. There are other examples of individuals and at the moment we can support those 20 widows for another 6 months. Funds came from Germany, a man who again read the reports and flew to Banda Aceh for a day – met the widows with me – gave the money without question and flew back to Germany the next day. He has subsequently sponsored a Christmas event and raised some more money.

I did a presentation at the shelter meeting in September 2005 that I called 'Working together' because it was obvious they were all trying to do their own thing. As a one time purchasing manager, and one that experienced some years of Indonesian corruption (plus death threats), I thought I could be of some use – to this date there has not been one response and only now are they (the NGO'S) beginning to realize their many mistakes.

I am certainly critical and I most certainly have a rather low opinion of many of the people I have seen in Banda Aceh –BUT my objective is not to name the people or the organizations but to point out that collectively there were a lot of failings, some unwanted and unnecessary arrogance, a fair amount of stupidity and some greed. No- one is looking for halo-people, for thankfully they don't exist, but you do need logic out there, a local understanding, and you must have co-operation and collective objectives. You need to get around the bars and other places of entertainment to hear the stories but all those are said privately and that is how it will remain.

If you talk to consultants, most are frustrated and unable to operate under Indonesian government rules and regulations and bad habits. Every table in Medan and Banda Aceh restaurants talk about the millions of dollars they have at their disposal but cannot spend because of bureaucracy. Let them tell their stories – but then we must remember the pay is good and therefore silence will reign! WYSIWYG – what you see is what you get - and in the case of Aceh there is too much money around to rock a boat.

I am a pragmatic, down-to-earth person who is sensible enough to know that people and organizations are not always what they appear to be on their websites or elsewhere. They consist of people and therefore the capabilities and abilities of the organization will be a variable – if they were in business and answerable to shareholders then I doubt the share price would be very good. Management is not what it should be and the UN is no different. Just look at oil for food and Saddam and tell us all that money does keep the wheels turning. It is just a matter of digging deep enough to find the real story – I don't have time or the resources for that, but nonetheless can still do a bit of ferreting. I don't mean to be critical of all the people who in fact do tremendous work, truly dedicated individuals who give up all kinds of pleasures to help others – thankfully the world is full of such people and some of those are in Aceh province.

But we need to be better and the only way to start down that avenue is to face up to the failures we know exist and do this in an open and positive manner. Aceh was an unprecedented disaster area that called for an unprecedented response. We could talk all day about what should have been done, how it could have been better organized and co-ordinated and what we need to do in the future to ensure we do not make the same mistakes. But then look at our history and what we have learnt from that – bigger toys to play with and a world market that dictates your friends until you don't need them anymore.

I'm a Joe Soap – and the fact that I operate on a small pension and have been released from my grovelling world of 'yes sir, no sir' etc, and so I'm going to spend a few years writing books about things I've always wanted to say – hopefully the coconut tree I had selected to sit under for this job in Aceh pre-tsunami is still there. Please don't take offence, as we all know it's far from a perfect world and because of this every now and then people like me get out a wooden box and holler from the hills to an uninterested audience, where only the people who the words don't refer to respond.

For emergency response I think we need to pool financial and human resources, to formulate a new type of management team that consists solely of professional people who have integrity and dedication, and we need to understand grass roots needs instead of trying to enforce our own ways and thinking onto people who clearly don't want it. We've done this for centuries and even today we continue down the same path, despite the fact that every now and then it comes back and smacks us all in the face.

End of sermon, so they say in the church.

Thanks again for the response."

David Wallis. March 8th 2006.

In support of his arguments, David included the following article published in the English language newspaper, the Jakarta Post, with the following link:

http://www.thejakartapost.com/detailheadlines.asp?fileid=20060308.A02&irec=3

Source: The Jakarta Post, 8 March 2006.

BRR WARNS IT MAY TAKE OVER UNFINISHED CONTRACTS

Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency for Aceh and Nias (BRR) chief Kuntoro Mangkusubroto has blasted non-governmental organizations, accusing some of dishonesty and a lack of professionalism, and threatened the agency would take over any projects that remain unfinished in June next year.

Kuntoro said some of the larger organizations had "lied" to their donors and the public about their progress, were beset by high overheads or divided by internal problems, and fixated with obtaining land for houses when most survivors wanted to return to their villages.

"One NGO took pictures claiming they had built 100 houses but they just built two houses. Another NGO built toilets but in some areas there was no water in them, how can professionals do that kind of thing?" Kuntoro said recently.

He singled out several NGOs for special criticism.

They included UN Habitat, which he accused of "being slow in some areas". He also alleged that CARE had often behaved duplicitously.

Kuntoro said the BRR would measure the NGOs' current performance against their pledges, so that donor countries could best target their funding.

"We are so proud of projects and groups like the Salvation Army, for example, but when it comes to bigger organizations I am sad to say they're not as effective.

"They have too many overheads and I believe too many internal governance problems and I feel it is my duty to communicate that to donors and the NGO head offices.

"Usually the NGOs say 'can you give us land?', but that is not the (correct) approach when 90 per cent of people will go back to their villages," Kuntoro said.

He said that any agencies that failed to deliver on their commitments by the middle of next year would be required to leave, and the BRR or more efficient NGOs would assume their work.

"We will now be asking the NGOs to review their current performance against their December pledges and submit new numbers and projects.

"The consequences are severe, but I want to send a signal that we are serious here and this is not business as usual.

"People have to work fast in these projects and I'm really serious about that."

Kuntoro's comments focused on the construction of housing but BRR's Nias operations head William Sabander said Kuntoro intended to apply sanctions across the board.

"He has told me that we will ask for commitments from all agencies, which should come with an action plan, and if this does not meet the schedules we need to evaluate and get someone to take over things, or the BRR could assign another agency," William said.

The BRR, UN and Red Cross recently announced they had pushed back by several months their March target for moving people out of tents and into temporary shelters.

Only 235 out of the estimated 16,000 temporary shelters needed for the 70,000 Acehnese living under canvas have been completed since the program began in September.

About 12 percent of the around 120,000 new permanent homes required have been built.

While Kuntoro acknowledged his comments could create tensions between some NGOs and the BRR, Kuntoro said he hoped they and the performance review would encourage efficiency and transparency.

"We need the houses now, not at the end of the year. If the agencies say they have to scale back their pledge, fine, as long as they deliver the pledge.

"What I really worry about is philanthropists' or donors' nasty surprise if they find out that something is untrue or not realistic," Kuntoro said.

UN Habitat project head Ian Hamilton said the organization may have been a little slow initially.

"Maybe we could have spent less time at the beginning talking and starting to build things but you always do much analysis at the start."

Hamilton said the organization had built 200 homes, which put them "in the top four or five organizations."

UN Habitat had agreed to construct 4,000 houses.

CARE's Aceh head Christophe Legrand said the company, with projects for this year worth US$30 million, was always transparent and professional.

"(Kuntoro's criticisms) may be referring to initial work in the emergency but the standards we strive to reach are very high," Legrand said.

He said the company had 700 houses at various stages of construction, but not one had yet been completed.

Hamilton and Legrand said they were not troubled by the Aceh and Nias Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority's proposed review of non-government organizations and enjoyed a positive working relationship with the organization and Kuntoro."