Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) Chairman Om Yentieng lashed out at Battambang provincial governor Chan Sophal on Sunday for refusing to let the unit investigate a district governor for allegedly pilfering thousands of dollars of state money.
Mr. Sophal said in the morning that he would be personally overseeing an investigation into Thmar Koul district governor Kong Ly for allegedly pocketing part of a 70 million riel (about $17,500) sum earmarked for two roads, and would not refer the case to the ACU.
“I already gave an order to our provincial management officials…to investigate,” Mr. Sophal said. “We will not send a report to the Anti-Corruption Unit, because our provincial level is able to solve the problem.”
“In the case that we find Mr. Kong Ly really is guilty, we will ask him to pay [the money back] and educate him not to do wrong anymore,” he added.
Mr. Yentieng said Mr. Sophal was grievously overstepping his bounds.
“A governor at the provincial level has no right to investigate or to compromise on a corruption case, because a crime is a crime, so they must send a report to the ACU to manage it according to the law,” he said.
“A provincial governor cannot put an end to a corruption case. Even if the district governor pays compensation, he cannot be released from the net of the law,” he added.
Contacted after Mr. Yentieng’s rebuke, Mr. Sophal said he was unfazed.
“I don’t care what the ACU says—it’s up to them. But the district governor is my official, and I am the boss, so I can use my position as the provincial governor to solve this problem,” he said.
The claims of corruption were made on leaflets strewn around Battambang City over the past few days. They say that Mr. Ly “stole the state’s finances for eating and drinking with his accomplices.”
For one road, the leaflets say, Mr. Ly conspired with a friendly construction company to grant them the contract for 55 million riel (about $13,750) with no bidding process or oversight from other officials, ensuring a large kickback.
In the other case, they say, a sum of 15 million riel (about $3,750) was allocated for the construction of a smaller road that was never completed.
Mr. Ly denied on Sunday that he had benefitted from either contract.
“I did not commit acts of corruption like the accusation from the anonymous person. They just want to destroy my reputation,” Mr. Ly said.
“I am poor and I drive a motorbike to work every day,” he added. “I welcome the investigation.”