Further JICA Support Hinges On Fertilizer Scandal

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has said that its future support of agricultural development in Cambodia depends on the outcome of an investigation into a provincial official accused of embezzling funds from JICA-donated fertilizer.

The accused, deputy bureau chief of Battambang’s department of agriculture Seng Ratanak, has implicated two of his superiors in the scam, which saw some $200,000 misappropriated and has caused JICA to question its operations in Cambodia’s agricultural sector.

“Our future support of 2KR [a grant aid scheme aimed at increasing food production in Cambodia] would depend on how much the current monitoring system is improved,” said Yukiko Kitazawa, head of public relations for JICA, when asked by email how the scam could effect Japanese involvement in such projects.

“We have already met officials in charge in the Ministry [of Agriculture] and asked them to send us a written report to recount all the facts and causes as well as to describe their measures to prevent such misconduct from happening,” she said.

“After receiving the response from the Ministry, we will consult with our higher authority to take necessary measures.”

Mr. Ratanak has implicated Battambang provincial agriculture department director Chhim Vicheara and deputy governor Cheam Chansorphorn, the son of CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap.

Both men profess their innocence in the case, which saw funds intended for the Ministry of Agriculture siphoned off.

Mr. Vicheara said Tuesday that departmental changes will be made to appease JICA and ensure there is no repeat of the fertilizer scam.

“We have created a committee, including members of the Ministry of Agriculture, to investigate,” he said.

“I think in the future it will not happen again because my de­partment will be better prepared and arranged,” he said.

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