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Free SR school rations not pilfered, WFP says

Allegations that a Siem Reap primary school director was pilfering food rations from his school and reselling them for profit have left a small village outraged this week.

No one’s sure who started the rumour, but it prompted an investigation yesterday by the provincial Education Department, police and sponsors Plan International and World Food Programme (WFP).

“We received a letter indirectly, not from the person who wrote it,” said Ung Serei Dy, provincial education director. “We sent a committee to investigate the accuracy of the claims.”

But after interviewing more than 30 students, teachers and parents, the committee failed to unearth complaints.

The school feeding program at Sleng Spean Primary School started in 2003. Students receive a hot breakfast, and 350 poor students take home about 30 kilograms of food per quarter to help their families afford school, according to Plan International.

“The accusation was that this gentleman had been misusing the school food rations, and that’s unsubstantiated,” said Jin Iwata, WFP in Cambodia’s director of communications. “What we did find, was a discrepancy in the record keeping for about 2 kilograms of canned fish . . . It has been agreed that the school will compensate that discrepancy.”

Though the investigation is considered complete and the school director exonerated, he did admit yesterday to another, potentially more mercenary, blunder: selling the rations for school supplies.

“The food, fish cans, rice… I sometimes sold it when we needed money to buy equipment to repair the school,” said director Cheb Sarom, clarifying that he received permission from local officials prior to making any purchases.

“I can guarantee 100 per cent that I am not lying to get benefits from this program.”

While provincial education director Dy corroborated the claims, it caused the WFP to do a double take: “We were not aware and as far as I know he would not get permission for that,” Iwata said.

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