The National Election Committee paid at least $60,000 more than necessary in book printing costs because the contract did not go to public bid, a top Sam Rainsy Party official said.
“They have wasted thousands of dollars through corruption,” said Eng Chhay Eang, the opposition party’s general secretary. “They are destroying the nation.”
You Kan, of the NEC’s purchasing committee, said the call for bids was advertised in Khmer newspapers and a number of companies responded. It is true, he said, that the bids were not opened in public.
“We just received their applications and their reports, with their prices, and then chose the cheapest—the Reaksmei Angkor printing house,” he said.
At issue is a 72-page booklet describing procedures and regulations governing the first-ever commune council elections, to be held Feb 3. The illustrated booklet contains detailed information of interest to elections officials, political party members and voters.
The winning contract called for 72,150 books to be printed at a cost of $1.27 per book, for a total price of nearly $92,000, said You Kan. He said he could not be sure how many companies bid on the job, because the NEC deals with many printers on many jobs.
“It was more than two and less than seven,” he said.
Eng Chhay Eang said that cost is way out of line for Cambodia. Printers tell him that the larger the order, the lower the price, and that a reasonable price for such a job would be between $0.35 and $0.40 per book.
One printer, who declined to be identified, said that the price paid by the NEC was exorbitant.
“If I had done the job, I would have charged $0.50 per book, and if printing 70,000 books, I would have lowered the cost,” the printer said.
He said he had not known about the contract. “If I had known, I would have bid on it,” he said. “I am sorry [to have missed it].”
Eng Chhay Eang said he was shocked to learn the price of the book when he went to order 2,000 for Sam Rainsy Party members working on the elections.
Instead of paying about $2,500 for the books, he said he will buy one book and have it copied, at a total cost of about $1,000. “We will not change anything,” he said.
You Kan said there is no prohibition against copying the books. “We are very glad to hear they want to make more copies, because they are helping the NEC spread information on the election,” he said.