Sixty-seven pickup trucks purchased by the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation for a road improvement project funded by the Asian Development Bank are missing from the ministry’s warehouses, an official said Monday.
Of 83 trucks purchased in 2001 with two loans from the ADB for the refurbishment of sections of national Routes 5, 6 and 7, only 16 have been returned to the ministry since the projects’ completion earlier this year, the ministry’s Deputy Inspector-General Meas Samith wrote in a statement Monday.
The trucks, which by law should have been returned, cost $15,000 each for a total of $1.2 million, he said.
Many of the missing trucks’ users are ministry officials who have balked at requests to return them, Meas Samith said.
“We know the name[s] of users and their location and the Ministry has issued the letter two times to request those officials, who are not entitled to use these vehicles, to return them to the Ministry for inventory,” he wrote.
Project Coordinator Pheng Sovichno disputed that report, saying that more than 40 vehicles have already been returned to the ministry. Those that have not are still being used by ADB consultants and their Cambodian counterparts making field visits to the construction sites, he added.
Most of the road repairs were completed by July, ADB deputy head Anthony Jude said Monday. Funded with two ADB loans of $67 million and $55 million, the construction has been extended to include the renovation of several bridges on National Route 5, a project that will continue into next year.
“Once construction has finished, the vehicles will be given back to the ministry,” he said, adding that intraministerial squabbling over vehicles was not unheard of.
Ministry officials jostling for use of the vehicles were to blame, said Jude, adding that the trucks should only be used for field visits.
Ministry security guards may soon be sent to repossess abused vehicles, Ministry of Public Works Secretary of State Suong Heng said.
“We do not want the ministry’s property used by low [ranking] staff,” he said Monday. “We want to collect them at the ministry, and then we will decide who requires use of those cars.”
(Additional reporting by Corinne Purtill)