Mystery Firm To Pay for New Ministry HQ

The Ministry of National As­sem­bly and Senate Relations and Inspection’s new headquarters, which is to be constructed on the site of a public garden near Phnom Penh’s Hun Sen park, won’t cost the government a cent, an official said Thursday.

New Hope Co Ltd, which won the contract for the project, has agreed to shoulder the building’s cost in exchange for half of the land in the centrally-located site, which is now a rare garden and playing field in Chamkar Mon’s Tonle Bassac commune, said Huot Hak, director of the ministry’s personnel and administration department.

“The government does not have to pay for the cost [of the ministry],” he said. “The company will equip our building with all the office materials.”

The ministry, which exists to audit government institutions and fight corruption, outgrew its current location after its staff ballooned under the current government mandate, Huot Hak said.

Company representatives and government officials have given little information about New Hope, which is registered at the Ministry of Commerce under a nonexistent address and does not seem to have working offices. Two phone numbers listed on the company’s letterhead have been answered by people unwilling to identify themselves or unsure of their company’s name.

Huot Hak said the project was awarded to New Hope about a month ago after a proper bidding process presided over by his own minister and other government officials.

He added that several other companies participated in the bidding process, but could not re­member an exact number.

“The contract was given to New Hope because it is a reputed company with a lot of money and capital,” he explained.

Ouk Rabun, secretary of state at the Ministry of Finance, and according to Huot Hak, one of the officials involved in the bidding, referred all questions about the project to Minister of National Assembly and Senate Relations Men Sam An before hanging up the phone on Thursday.

But Men Sam An said she did not know the details of the bidding process or of the contract and directed questions to New Hope.

“Samdech [Hun Sen] awarded it to me,” she said. “I don’t know about the bidding.”

Repeated calls to Lay Bunpa, one of the owners of New Hope, went unanswered on Thursday.

But a man claiming to be Lay Bunpa’s nephew, Saing Sothea, called a reporter on Thursday morning to request that The Cambodia Daily cease coverage of the ministry project.

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