CPP Lawmaker Rejects Claims of Government Overspending

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap on Thursday rejected an opposition lawmaker’s claims that the National Assembly’s chief administrator has been responsible for gross misspending in the parliament’s budget, calling the allegations “groundless and without clear sources.”

CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay has accused National Assembly secretary-general Leng Peng Long of overseeing inflated purchases, including $25,000 for a flagpole this year and $11.5 million on “services” the year before, and called him for questioning by the parliament’s banking and finance committee on Tuesday.

Mr. Yeap, the committee’s chairman, entered the meeting to authorize it to go ahead but then left and allowed Mr. Chhay, the deputy chair, to preside.

On Thursday, the CPP lawmaker held a press conference to excoriate Mr. Chhay’s claims as baseless.

“In the name of the chairman of the commission, who is responsible before the law, and the president of the National Assembly [Heng Samrin], whatever His Excellency Son Chhay has told journalists about anything is groundless and without clear sources,” Mr. Yeap said. “He exaggerated everything.”

Mr. Yeap said Mr. Chhay’s claims were intended to damage the CPP, and that if he had evidence against Mr. Peng Long he could make a formal complaint.

“If the expert commission discovers an irregularity and has clear evidence, it will make a report to send to the National Assembly president to ask [him] to take action over the matter,” Mr. Yeap said. “If necessary, the National Assembly president can write to an authority such as a third party—that being the courts or the Anti-Corruption Unit—to investigate.”

Contacted by telephone, Mr. Chhay said that Mr. Yeap was protecting a fellow CPP official after privately admitting in the past that Mr. Peng Long had overseen serious spending irregularities.

“This is a party concern,” Mr. Chhay said. “He has spoken on behalf of the party, and has to protect his people. In reality, he knows and has occasionally mentioned to me that there is a serious problem with spending in parliament.”

Mr. Chhay said also that he believed his information was correct and challenged Mr. Peng Long to break his silence and prove him wrong by releasing accounting figures from last   year.

“The information I got regarding the overspending was reliable…but also the main concern is the ‘services’ expenditure of $11.5 million,” Mr. Chhay said.

“From the reliable source, they believe that each year when the parliament has to receive guests or when committee members travel abroad, the spending could only be less than 30 percent of that $11.5 million.”

Mr. Chhay said he would stop pursuing the matter if receipts covering the $11.5 million are revealed.

“Where are the receipts from the spending last year? Who are the people who came, which hotels did they stay at, and what did they spend on? How can they say that there are no documents?” Mr. Chhay said.

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