A National Assembly member has formally called for an independent inquiry into the Electricite du Cambodge power-stealing scandal, alleging that state employees are involved in the theft of electricity worth hundreds of thousands of dollars per month.
In a Feb 24 letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen, Funcinpec lawmaker Sam Ram Sek called for an immediate investigation by the Parliamentary Relations and Inspection Ministry into the EdC scam, which so far has landed three businessmen in jail and resulted in the suspensions of three EdC officials.
Sam Ram Sek, a member of the National Assembly’s Finance and Banking Commission and former adviser to ex-industry, mines and energy minister Pou Sothirak, wrote that an independent investigation will show the chief suspect under detention, Chea Rithy, is not alone in stealing from the state power company.
“There is corruption among a large number of EdC officials…,” the letter reads.
“This has made the company lose from half a million to $1 million monthly. At tcompany’s leaders and officials have become greatly rich.”
Speaking by telephone Wednesday, Sam Ram Sek said the only way to ensure the full disclosure of everyone involved in the scam is to appoint an independent investigation team.
A proper investigation cannot be conducted by EdC or the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, which has jurisdiction over the state utility, he added.
“This needed to be investigated a long time ago….[Chea Rithy] is not the only one….I hope they don’t use [Chea Rithy] as a scapegoat,” said Sam Ram Sek.
Ty Norin, deputy managing director of EdC, is leading the utility’s internal investigation into the revelations of fraud.
He said Wednesday he did not oppose an independent inquiry, but expressed the opinion an internal EdC inquiry was also necessary to pinpoint how the scams worked and to determine how much revenue the government lost.
Inspections Minister Khun Haing said Wednesday that a meeting likely would be held today to decide if an investigation would be launched, adding the prime minister’s approval is welcome but not necessary for the ministry to proceed.
Khou Meng Heang, secretary of state at the Inspection Ministry, said Wednesday that a file to investigate alleged corruption at EdC has been open since 1997 but the ministry did not have the manpower to investigate claims.
If a decision is made to investigate it will be the first conducted by the ministry since it received its new mandate following the formation of the coalition government in November 1998, said Khou Meng Heang, a Funcinpec member and former deputy governor of Phnom Penh.
Chea Rithy, owner of an electrical supply company by the same name, was jailed with his brother, Chea Pearum, and Mean Kea Feb 16 on suspicion of stealing state electricity.
Three officials from EdC have also been suspended pending the outcome of an internal investigation of who was involved in the operation to sell stolen state electricity to businesses, hotels and factories in Phnom Penh.
Klaut Randy, under secretary of state at the Industry Ministry and a member of the EdC board of directors, said Wednesday that he was unaware of lawmaker’s request for an independent inquiry.
According to Sam Ram Sek’s letter, obtained Tuesday night, it was forwarded Feb 29 by National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh to Hun Sen. It was also sent to Minister of Justice Uk Vithun and Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem.