Official Leaks Details of Alleged Corruption

Nearly 500 pages of documents purportedly detailing corruption at the Ministry of Land Management have been leaked by a senior ministry official, leading ministry staff to call for an audit to establish the truth.

The 460-page stack of receipts and invoices could prove that several mid-level ministry staff embezzled around $200,000 by submitting fraudulent expense reports over the past year, the official, who heads a department in the ministry, said on condition of anonymity.

Ministry employees contacted by telephone this week confirmed that the documents originated from the ministry’s financial department.

However, the officials said that only an audit of the documents would get to the bottom of the allegations.

The documents, leaked last week, detail officials’ trips to the prov­inces and record what the official said are falsified receipts for everything from hotel rooms to ren­tal cars.

Typical expenses listed include  $250 for a car rental in September and $232 for a field trip to Si­ha­nouk­ville that month that the official claim­ed never actually happened.

Ministry Undersecretary of State Kert Sareth said he had heard news reports that the total amount in question is around $200,000, but he added that he found that figure im­plausibly large. The ministry has a bud­get of around $3.17 million for 2006.

Still, he said, one might accomplish such fraud by forging ex­pense reports.

“They might steal the budget by enlarging the number of expenses,” he said. “Like, they bought one item, and then reported it 100 times.”

Minister of Land Management Im Chhun Lim repeatedly hung up on reporters on Wednesday.

Three secretaries of State at the ministry, Phoeung Sophoan, Chea Sophara and Nuth Narang, said they were not familiar with the alle­ga­tions, but that an audit would bring the truth to light. They said the ministry is audited semiannually.

Uth Chhorn, auditor general of the National Auditing Authority, did not return repeated phone calls.

Pho Vuthy, director of the minis­try’s finance department, could not be reached for comment. A man who answered Pho Vuthy’s telephone on Wednesday denied that he was Pho Vuthy.

The official who leaked the documents said invoices had been falsified for the purchase of office supplies—including computers, toner cartridges and paper—as had re­ceipts for rented hotel and conference rooms during trips to the provinces.


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