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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Food aid well-used, ADB says

Food aid well-used, ADB says

Bank claims rice distribution reached the right people

THE Asian Development Bank has called the first phase of its US$40 million emergency food program a success, despite ongoing allegations that the administration of rice handouts by village chiefs was tainted by corruption.

"This assistance is making a very real difference in the lives of Cambodia's most vulnerable," ADB country director Arjun Goswami said in a statement released Friday. He added that the program had effectively reached those in need and said the government was to be praised for its efforts.

The government was to launch today its investigation - with ADB observance - into complaints that the rice was not distributed fairly. The ADB did not release the number of complaints but described them as "relatively limited" in quantity. These included only complaints made to the ADB's own complaints hotline, not to independent monitors.

"I don't think the investigation will take a long time, it's not too difficult," said Vong Sandap, deputy secretary general for the Ministry of Finance.

"We trust them [commune chiefs in charge of distribution]. They are the ones who know exactly who should receive emergency food assistance and who should not," he added.

Earlier this month, more than  1,000 villagers in Banteay Meanchey filed complaints against local authorities, saying they were victims of blatant cronyism. Some 300 villagers protested in Pursat and Oddar Meanchey provinces, saying that they did not receive rice because village chiefs distributed only to family, friends and fellow CPP members.

Vong Sandap said he believed the protests were politically motivated.

Yang Saing Koma, director of the agricultural NGO Cedac, which monitored rice distribution in Pursat and Kampong Chhnang provinces, said he was unsure if observers would be involved in the investigation but was willing to help if asked.

The three-year project will now enter its second phase, focusing on food-for-work programs. 

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