Assembly Broke AIPO Budget, Organizer Says

The National Assembly broke its $1.2 million budget for the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Organ­ization meeting in Phnom Penh earlier this month, one of its organizers said Sunday.

“I estimated that we spent over the budget,” said Cheam Yeap, a CPP lawmaker and deputy head of the meeting’s organizing committee.

He said the exact cost is not yet known, as his committee still has to tally the figures for the weeklong affair.

Cheam Yeap blamed the excess spending on ministries whose demands cut into the Assembly’s budget. Previous host nations had set aside individual budgets within their ministries to cover AIPO-related expenses, he said.

He fingered the ministries of Health, Culture and the Interior—which together grabbed $100,000 of the $1.2 million pot.

Cheam Yeap said the Interior Ministry alone siphoned off $70,000 to help cover security costs. Other significant costs were incurred when the government flew its Asean guests to Siem Reap to visit Angkor Wat. No one anticipated how much ground transportation in Siem Reap would cost, Cheam Yeap said.

Parliamentarians and special advisers who helped organize the meeting also soaked up considerable amounts of money, he added.

Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and his first and third deputy presidents, Heng Samrin and Nguon Ngel, each received 3 million riel, or $750, for their participation ef­forts, Cheam Yeap said.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay, who also sat on the AIPO committee, said he too was given 3 million riel without explanation. He said Monday he had already returned the money to the National Assembly.

Prince Ranariddh defended the AIPO expenditures upon his return from a political meeting in Malaysia on Saturday, inviting the national auditor to investigate and saying the spending was transparent.

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