Allegations by the World Bank of misprocurement in the country’s demobilization program has been a “total embarrassment” for the government, but the program should proceed, Funcinpec co-Defense Minister Prince Sisowath Sirirath said this week.
“I think the new government should continue demobilization, but I hope there is more transparency in the bidding process,” Prince Sirirath said. “The Defense Ministry should’ve handled demobilization. Now it’s too late.”
On July 4, the World Bank announced it had declared misprocurement on a contract related to Cambodia’s demobilization program because the company did not meet the requirements of the bid documents. Information about the actual flawed contract remains scarce.
The World Bank refused to release any additional information beyond a short statement July 4. Many government officials, including spokesmen and advisers in the Council of Ministers, say they know nothing about the contracts. And Cabinet Minister Sok An, who heads the demobilization program, did not have time to answer questions Wednesday.
“I’m busy,” he said before abruptly hanging up the phone.
Takeo CPP lawmaker Heng Bo, who formerly worked at the Council of Ministers, said that Sok An and Undersecretary of State Svay Sitha did not share information about the demobilization program with other Cabinet members.
“Svay Sitha and Sok An were the main guys in the demobilization program,” Heng Bo said. “They never cc’d reports to anyone, even Secretary of State Chea Sophon.”
In an effort to promote transparency, the World Bank’s operational manual says the Bank “discloses the results of bidding processes, including the names of firms or individuals awarded contracts and the value of the contracts.”
None of that information has yet been available on the $6.2 million contract in question.
Though the World Bank reported last October that 15,551 ghost soldiers were removed from a list of soldiers registered to be demobilized, Prince Sirirath said he is not sure how many ghost soldiers remain in the military.