Complaints Continue With ADB’s Distributions

As rice distributions to thousands of poor families under the Asian Development Bank’s Emergency Food Assistance project continued Tuesday, so did complaints about the selection of people who received it, human rights organizations said.

Kompong Chhnang provincial Ad­hoc coordinator Sam Chankea said that in his province there had been ir­regularities in the selection of households receiving the ADB’s rice and he had received numerous complaints that poor villagers had been excluded in favor of wealthier villagers.

“It is not according to the [project] plan,” Sam Chankea said, adding that in Kompong Leng district’s Chranouk commune all families, in­cluding rich households, had re­ceived one bag of rice each.

Adhoc investigator Srey Naren said Tuesday that similar irregularities were found in the ADB’s rice distribution in 14 communes in Oddar Meanchey province. In Samroang district, in particular, there had been a lot of complaints of unfair distribution of rice, Srey Naren said, adding that poor families from Konkriel commune had even pro­tested at the provincial government offices.

“They [the poor families] demand to receive rice just as other villagers and better-off families had,” he said.

Rights workers and government officials have criticized the ADB for not having proper independent oversight of the distribution and entrusting commune and village chiefs with selecting the families who received the donated rice.

Complaints that well-off families, at the expense of poor families, had been selected to receive ADB rice began almost as soon as the $40-million project started last week.

ADB Country Representative Ar­jun Goswami said Tuesday that he had not considered suspending the project in the face of complaints of irregularities because “people are clearly receiving the rice they need and they should not be penalized.”

Goswami said he was confident the government would address the irregularities, adding that the “reputation of the government is at stake.”

Poverty is so widespread in the areas targeted by the ADB project that is was inevitable that some poor people would be left out, he added.

Vong Sandap, deputy secretary-general of the Ministry of Finance and the government’s project director for the ADB rice distribution, said on Tuesday that he didn’t believe reports that poor people had been excluded due to irregularities.

He added that there had been problems in only a few communes.

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