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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Fraud found in demobilization process

Fraud found in demobilization process

A World Bank evaluation has noted serious problems in the $42 million donor-driven

demobilization program. Some of those flagged for demobilization were 'ghost' soldiers,

while genuine soldiers who wanted to leave were paying their commanders to get on

the list for the second phase. Additionally, none of those stood down in the first

phase had as yet received their reintegration packages.

"There is a growing body of evidence, including the findings of several field

visits by Bank missions, that suggests ... some of those on the database have never

served in the armed forces or received salaries from the military, and others have

served in the armed forces but do not receive their whole salaries," the report

states.

The admission came in a summary of mission findings published for an October 22 meeting

between World Bank officials and the Council for the Demobilization of Armed Forces

(CDAF), the government body that oversees the demobilization program.

Critics of the program, which is mainly funded by foreign donors, have frequently

accused military officers of padding the lists of those under their command, allowing

them to pocket the initial $240 severance paid to each demobilized soldier.

The Post understands that donors have not been able to cross-check the database used

by CDAF with that used by the Ministry of Defense. The report seems to confirm this,

noting that it was "not possible to make any further independent or definitive

check of the extent of this issue".

The World Bank's team leader, Gillian Brown, said proper implementation of the program

was vital if it was to achieve its broader aims.

"This is the essential piece to ensure that the project achieves what it is

supposed to: transferring funds that had been used for military expenditures towards

much-needed social spending, and helping demobilized soldiers and their families

lead more productive lives," she told the Post.

Opposition MP Son Chhay, a frequent critic of the demobilization program, applauded

the report for recognizing corruption.

"I'm glad they know they made mistakes but what they're going to do about it

is another question," he said. "The whole process has to be revised and

reconsidered."

The Bank called for better communication to make the nature of the demobilization

program clear, and said the non-political nature of the scheme should be stressed

particularly given the general election scheduled for July 27, 2003.

"As this is an election year," it stated, "the communications strategy

should also include a campaign to explain that the project is funded by donors for

the people of Cambodia and is not linked to any political party."

CDAF head Svay Sitha said he could not comment until he had spoken to his superiors.

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