Nat’l Assembly Approves Audit of 2003 Budget

The National Assembly approv­ed the official audit of the 2003 national budget by a vote of 77 to 12 on Thursday—a year later than scheduled. The finalized audit shows that the government overspent its $707.5 million budget by $53.6 million in 2003.

The figures show that the In­terior Ministry overspent its $40.4 million budget by $6.1 million, the Council of Ministers overspent its $17.3 million by $10.3 million and the National Election Committee spent $7.8 million instead of the $808,750 it was budgeted.

Cheam Yeap, the Chairman of the National Assembly’s Finance Committee, told the Assembly that the government overspent on security due to international terrorism and the 2003 Anti-Thai riots.

Finance Ministry First Secretary of State Kong Vibol told to As­sem­bly that the NEC massively overspent because of the need “to protect voters and lawmakers during the election.”

In a significant adjustment, the final budget differs from preliminary budget analysis made by the Finance Ministry in 2004 which indicated that priority, poverty-reduction ministries had far under-spent their budgets.

The new figures show the Health Ministry spending $77 million of its $80.7 million budget and the Rural Development Ministry spending nearly four times its budget of $5.2 million.

Minister of Rural Development Lu Laysreng on Friday said he had not heard this figure before and did not believe it was accurate.

“My ministry never spends what it is given by the Assembly,” he said. “My ministry spends 50 percent of its total budget.”

Monh Saphann, Funcinpec lawmaker, agreed the Rural Develop­ment Ministry did not receive the budget figure.

“In fact, the figure in the list is the requested money, but the ministry never received as much money as they need,” he said.

Kong Vibol said by telephone that the rural development figure listed included foreign aid money. He referred further questions to Finance Minister Keat Chhon, who could not be reached for comment.

Cheam Yeap said the final budget figures were “not 100 percent perfect,” and that money from NGOs was included.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said he believed the finalized 2003 budget does not accurately show how money was spent in 2003.

“They spend the money and then after the fact try to say that this ministry or that ministry in fact spent it,” he said.

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