A month after the Forestry Administration’s public affairs unit was established to increase transparency, the office still has no telephone line and officials refuse to answer questions.
The unit, located at the Forestry Administration building on Norodom Boulevard, was created at the World Bank’s suggestion and funded with money from the Forest Concession Management and Control Pilot Project, said William McGrath, the World Bank natural resource economist who manages the loan.
Around $50,000 was budgeted for “office equipment, supplies, training and allowances,” McGrath, who recently moved to Washington from Cambodia, wrote in an e-mail.
The unit was intended to answer all public and press inquiries to the administration, ranging from the status of forest concessions to contact information for administration officials.
But calls made to the unit’s directors’ handphones over the past two weeks went unanswered, while officials said an office telephone line—intended to take public inquiries—has not been set up.
“The public affairs unit is not ready,” said press unit head Huot Bunnary last week. “The last of the setup was February 4,” he said. But, “we need more support from the World Bank.”
McGrath, however, disagreed.
“The simple answer is that the Public Affairs Unit is off to a slow start,” McGrath wrote. “The work is complicated by a project financing with many steps, but money is not the primary problem.”
Ty Sokhun, director of the Forestry Administration, under the the authority of the Ministry of Agriculture, began directing press inquiries to Huot Bunnary in January.
Yet last week, Huot Bunnary said the unit wasn’t ready to give out information.
Ty Sokhun also said Wednesday that the unit wasn’t ready and directed inquiries to another of the unit’s five staff members, Than Sarath, who also did not answer several phone calls this week.