kompong chhnang town – Ever since a fire—allegedly started by a man roasting a cat in his cottage—burned down about 100 houses here earlier this year, Sum Hoeurng says she has cried every night.
The Jan 29 fire created a tangled scandal at the provincial public hospital here, which, either by fire or by theft, lost all its funds.
Sum Hoeurng, the hospital’s cashier, is accused of taking advantage of the fire by pocketing over 23 million riel (about $5,950) of hospital money collected from patients.
She claims the money burned along with her house in the fire, but villagers say they saw her run from the fire with a bag of possessions, which they believe contained the missing money—much of which was earmarked for staff bonuses.
Sum Hoeurng said she did take a bag from her burning house, but it was full of clothes.
Health officials said keeping state money, such as hospital funds, in a private home is against the law.
“I told the hospital bosses that I didn’t want to keep the money in my house, but they asked me to keep it,” Sum Hoeurng said.
Sum Hoeurng is not the only suspicious figure at the Kompong Chhnang hospital. A team of provincial health inspectors detected irregularities in the accounting long before the fire, and the inspectors say the managers didn’t keep proper records and kept most of the hospital funds outside the hospital.
The hospital’s board—Director Uy Chan, Deputy Director and chief of financial supervision Leng Vanna, chief accountant Mam Malay, chief of finance Suos Samith, and Sum Hoeung—is being held responsible by the provincial health department.
Ung Phirun, secretary of state in the Ministry of Health, stated in an Aug 8 letter to the managers that legal action could be taken against hospital officials if the money was not recovered.
Since the fire, Uy Chan and Mam Malay have been transferred and demoted, while Suos Samith has been transferred. Leng Vanna and Sum Hoeung kept their positions.