Assembly Official Accused of Gross Misspending

The National Assembly’s banking and finance commission decided on Wednesday to summon Leng Peng Long, parliament’s chief administrative official, for questioning over claims of nepotism and alleged spending irregularities including $25,000 spent on a flagpole, the commission’s deputy chairman said.

The deputy to Mr. Peng Long, who is secretary-general of the National Assembly, said the accusations are false but that his boss would answer any questions if summoned.

Opposition CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay, deputy chairman of the banking and finance commission, said ruling and opposition lawmakers on the body agreed to call Mr. Peng Long for questioning as soon as possible.

“We had a committee meeting this morning. The committee agreed that we will invite Mr. Leng Peng Long, the secretary-general, to answer before the committee. It will not just be about nepotism in parliament, but how parliament conducts its spending. We want it done in a more transparent way,” Mr. Chhay said.

“We recently sent a representative of the committee to see the procedure for the [National Assembly’s Cambodian] flag, and found that there was a lot of confusion. Only the post to hang the flag [on] cost $25,000, which is just ridiculous,” Mr. Chhay said.

“There is also construction, purchasing of cars—transporting each car [to Cambodia] costs $25,000, which is ridiculous,” he said. “In their budget, they purchased 30 new cars, which cost about $200,000 each, and just to transport them to Cambodia costs about $25,000 each.”

Mr. Chhay said that Cheam Yeap, the CPP lawmaker who chairs the commission, would select the date for the questioning.

“We have to work it out with the president of the committee [Mr. Yeap] but we will work it out. It’s very difficult for him. We understand that sometimes the whole system is based on protecting the party, so this is difficult for him,” Mr. Chhay said.

Mr. Yeap and Mr. Peng Long could not be reached on Wednesday. However, parliament’s deputy secretary-general, Mith Karen—who was the target of Mr. Chhay’s claims of nepotism in the National Assembly last year—said the claims were false and that spending is subject to oversight.

“Now I am currently preparing these documents, and the practical implementation has not occurred yet. I mean, we are just drafting the 2015 plan for purchasing these materials,” he said.

“Furthermore, it is not true that we are planning to spend $25,000 for just one flagpole. Rather, this amount is planned for a whole project of gardening, pavements and flagpoles, as it is part of the 2015 planning,” Mr. Karen said.

“There is actually no official approval yet because we just presented the plans to the [banking and finance] committee recently, with 36 officials from [the departments of] procurement, finance, auditing, and the secretariat-general joining a meeting.”

“We do not decide anything within secretariat-general on our own,” he added. “We do not make the decision arbitrarily.”

“And it is not true that we will buy 30 cars at the alleged amount. Basically, we just plan to buy only nine cars for the leaders of the National Assembly, whose cars have been used for 12 years. Those cars get too old and so damaged,” Mr. Karen said, adding the purchase was approved by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“The price of the cars has not yet been set. It is up to the sellers, not to us,” he said.

Soon after the CNRP ended their boycott of the National Assembly in August, Mr. Chhay began campaigning against nepotism in the assembly’s administration, publicizing the fact that Mr. Karen has hired at least seven family members into the parliament over the past 20 years, including his daughter and son-in-law.

The positions include prominent administrative posts such as head of the assembly’s finance department, held by the son-in-law, and auditing, held by Mr. Karen’s daughter. The deputy secretary-general has said all were hired legitimately.

Mr. Karen said on Wednesday that both he and Mr. Peng Long would appear before the banking and finance commission if summoned in a formal letter signed by Mr. Yeap.

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