The deputy president of the National Assembly yesterday denied accusations from SRP lawmakers that he had too many advisers who received excessive pay.
In a letter on Friday, 11 SRP lawmakers said that Nguon Nhel, a long-serving lawmaker from Kompong Thom province, had 71 advisers who were paid “living allowances” on top of the payment for their work.
However Mr Nhel yesterday said he had just 26 advisers appointed by King Norodom Sihamoni and approved by the Assembly’s president, Heng Samrin, and paid with public funds.
“I would like to inform you that I only have 26 advisers…. I do not know why they [SRP lawmakers] ask me to explain. Samdech Heng Samrin is very strict over his approval,” Mr Nhel said.
The Assembly only remunerated advisers for their work and occasional expenses for travel, he said.
When asked to give figures, he said, “I am not corrupt.”
The letter sent by the SRP lawmakers to Mr Samrin on Friday claimed that Mr Nhel’s advisers were collectively paid 112 million riel, about $28,000, in “living allowances” this month on top of their pay and other expenses.
“We think the National Audit Authority should conduct an audit over National Assembly expenditures because of information related to improper spending over the years,” the letter said.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, chairman of the Assembly commission on finance and banking, said that under the law of the Assembly its leaders were required to have advisers.
“The leaders of the National Assembly are required to have consultants or senior advisers,” Mr Yeap said, noting that Mr Samrin had more than 100 such advisers. “For me, I have three advisers. The nine committee chairmen only have three advisers each.”
The number of advisers to Prime Minister Hun Sen reached more than 120 after 19 appointments in a Royal decree in January last year. Shortly after the decree Mr Yeap said that advisers with the rank of a senior minister received a stipend of more than 2 million riel, or about $500, each month and those with secretary of state rank were paid 1.79 million riel, or about $450.
Ahead of the 2008 election, Hun Sen called for all SRP defectors to be appointed as advisers.