15 WFP Monitors Lose Jobs Over Rice Scandal

Fifteen Cambodian World Food Pro­gram monitors have lost their jobs over rice stolen from the WFP’s Food for Work program be­tween 2003 and 2004, the organization’s country representative Tho­mas Keusters said Friday.

Before going public with its findings in August, the WFP conducted an internal investigation of the large scale scam, which involved di­verting and selling donated rice.

“It’s not that [the monitors] were actively involved in the diversion, or have made huge financial benefits, but [some of them] knew this was happening,” Keusters said.

“If they are monitors they are sup­posed to report the misuse of food, so they didn’t do their job,” he said.

Two government officials in the Mi­nistry of Water Resources and Me­teorology have also been punished by the government for their role in the scandal, Keusters said.

“We expect further sanctions will be taken” by the government against other government officials in­volved, Keusters added. “The fraud was widespread.”

Veng Sokhon, Secretary of State at the Water Resources and Me­te­o­rology, said the two low-ranking government officials from Svay Rieng province who were involved in the fraud are still working.

But they will never be promoted “or awarded a gold medal,” Veng Sokhon said.

The WFP officials who have lost their jobs were also involved in the fraud, Veng Sokhon said.

“It’s difficult to talk about the World Food Program issue,” he said. “They blame Cambodian officials.”

On March 29, the government paid back its first $300,000 installment of compensation to the WFP for the stolen rice. The government has agreed to pay two more yearly installments that will bring that figure up to $900,000.

The agreement to pay the mon­ey was signed by Minister of the Coun­cil of Ministers Sok An on Feb 28, Keusters said. The WFP hopes to restart its Food for Work program in May, Keusters added.

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