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Assembly's finance chief denies malfeasance

The chairman of parliament’s banking and finance commission yesterday rejected allegations of misuse of state funds at the National Assembly, which were raised on Tuesday by opposition lawmaker Son Chhay.

Cheam Yeap, a ruling Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker who heads the commission, said Chhay was wrong in asserting that hundreds of thousands of dollars of the public’s money had been misspent.

The opposition lawmaker told reporters following a closed-door meeting of the commission on Tuesday that his investigations had uncovered such irregular spending as the purchase of $12,000 lightning rods and the construction of a $50,000 gate.

“He did not listen to what I said [in the meeting],” Yeap said. “I really do not know what he was thinking. He gave a press conference based on what we discussed that day. But based on procedure, he should make a report to me about the irregularities so I can forward it to National Assembly President [Heng Samrin] to take action.”

Chhay also alleged that more than $11 million was spent on hospitality by parliament, including on catering to foreign dignitaries.

The evidence required clarifications from National Assembly Secretary-General Leng Peng Long, he said.

But Yeap yesterday stressed that all parliamentary spending “followed procedure” and it was therefore impossible to defraud the system or commit corruption.

“All of the goods at the National Assembly have followed the public procurement procedures,” he said, adding that the money was held by the Ministry of Public Affairs, not by parliament itself.

Complaining that his current state-provided car was too old and run down, Yeap said that he would soon be the recipient of a new Toyota Land Cruiser, which can cost upwards of $100,000 at local dealerships.

“My car is very old now, since I used it since the second mandate,” he said.

But, he added, “I didn’t request [a new car] only for me, but for all of us.”

National Assembly President Heng Samrin, First Vice President Kem Sokha, and Second Vice President Nguon Nhel are all in line to receive new Lexus 570s, which can sell for more than $200,000 locally, while the chairs of the other nine parliamentary commissions would each get a Land Cruiser.

Two pickup trucks would be bought for Peng Long, he added.

Chhay said he hoped the relevant documents would be handed to the commission so it could investigate further.

“If we get all the documents, we can see what the truth is. But when I ask, they refused,” he said.

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