Lawmaker: Donors Failing On WFP Scam

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay on Monday accused the donor community of backing off demands that the government take responsibility and disciplinary action for a World Food Program fraud uncovered earlier this year.

Donors have failed to pressure the government to meet the WFP’s request for a parallel investigation of those involved in the large-scale scheme that diverted donated foodstuffs and sold them for profit, he said.

The UN body conducted an internal investigation of the scandal and terminated at least seven staff members before going public with its findings in August.

“The WFP should be encouraged for going after corruption, not otherwise, not the way they are being treated right now,” Son Chhay said by telephone.

The UN body has halted its Food for Work programs during the investigation.

Japanese Ambassador Fumiaki Takahashi called the opposition comments “absurd” and said he and other envoys were pressing for a full probe of official complicity in the scandal. “We want to know the facts…. It’s tak­ing too long, and the people that are suffering are the Cambod­ians.”

Following the WFP’s public disclosure of the scandal, Prime Minister Hun Sen set up a task force headed by Cabinet Minister Sok An to conduct its own investigation, promising internal disciplinary action, compensation and safeguards against corruption.

Since then, however, officials have downplayed government employees’ role in the scam and derided initial reports of some

$2 million stolen. The two sides are now in negotiations over their different findings and what steps should be taken.

Thomas Keusters, WFP’s coun­try director, said negotiations are on hold this week as events, such as Friday’s coronation of King Norodom Sihamoni, take priority.

He also disputed Son Chhay’s remarks, saying donors had backed WFP demands. “In­divid­ually and collectively, they’ve supported the pursuit of this matter in the direction we agreed upon with Prime Minister Hun Sen.”

 

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