Inspection Ministry to Study Multimillion Phone Dispute

Parliamentary Relations and Inspection Minister Khun Haing on Tuesday ordered his staff to look into the multimillion-dollar dispute between the Tele­com­munications Ministry and private phone operators in Cambodia.

“We will study first the issues to see if there is any problem in telecommunications sector,” Khun Haing said Tuesday night.

Then, if warranted, he said, a full fledged investigation will be conducted by his ministry, which is responsible for investigating government wrongdoing.

The move comes two days after private phone operators denied claims by the Telecom­munications Ministry that they owe millions of dollars stemming from revenue-sharing agreements and the use of the state’s international gateway.

Somchai Lertwiset-Theerakul, Samart’s chief executive officer, has accused the Telecom­mun­ications Ministry of mismanagement and failing to account for his company’s payments.

A senior official at the Inspec­tion Ministry said Monday that he also suspects irregular financial activities have occurred at the Telecommunications Ministry.

“But we haven’t had complete documents or evidence to prove wrongdoing.”

However, Telecom­muni­ca­tions Minister So Khun on Tues­day denied that any officials or staff of his ministry have been involved in wrongdoing.

“No one in the ministry stole any money from Sam­art or other companies. Som­chai’s accusation has made us lose face,” So Khun said after he met with representatives from six phone operators. “If [the In­spection Ministry] wants to investigate our ministry, they can do anytime. Our door is open all the time because there is nothing to hide.”

According to the Telecom­munications Ministry, about $9 million is still owed by the six phone operators.

Keo Vuthin, chief of the ministry’s financial department, said CamTel (018 prefix) owes $2.2 million, MobiTel (012) and Samart (015, 016) owe about $1.4 million each, and Shinawatra (011) owes about $1.1 million. The rest is owed by TriCelcam, which re­cently went out of business, and land­line operator Camin­Tel.

But four phone companies contacted on Sunday denied they are late in payments.

In an effort to improve revenue collection for the cash-strapped national treas­ury, the minist­ries of Finance and Telecom­muni­cations recently warned private phone operators to pay their outstanding debts or face interest charges and heavy fines.

“Whatever the phone operators say, we have evidence to show that they owe us money,” said So Khun, noting the ministry has equipment and accounting system in place to check what is owed to the ministry.

by the private phone operators.




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