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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rice fraud (2)

Rice fraud (2)

Regarding the UN World Food Program article ("Government in $2 million rice

fraud" Post, August 27, 2004), let me get this straight:

The WFP gives rice to Cambodia to feed its starving people, but it makes the gift

conditional on those same starving people working for their rice allotment.

Okay, I'm American and can understand that twisted thinking, but now they are asking

Cambodia to pay market rates for that same rice. They lay this claim based on an

evaluation of work done by starving peasants.

The rice was a gift. The people are starving. The people, according to the WFP, did

not work hard enough to earn the rice that was distributed.

The WFP now wants to charge Cambodia full market rate for this excess rice distribution.

The WFP makes this charge by estimating the amount of work that should have been

done. By starving peasants. The WFP director does this as one of her last acts before

leaving Cambodia.

Cambodia received rice as a gift. The people had to work for it. Now the WFP wants

us to pay for it. Gift, work, pay. This is becoming very expensive rice.

I am not sure that this is the best kind of aid for Cambodia.

Roger W Graham - Phnom Penh

Ram Saravanamuttu, acting WFP Country Director (pending the appointment of director

designate Thomas Keusters) replies:

As your correspondent notes, the rice from WFP is a gift. It is a gift to the hungry

poor, paid for by the taxpayers of donor countries. The vulnerable Cambodians for

whom the rice is destined must get their full entitlement with no risk to their health

or food security. If it is diverted for another use, it has to be replaced at the

same price for which the lost rice was purchased. Otherwise, the quality of the rice

could be compromised or the quantity reduced.

The rice is the payment in food-for-work projects. Food for work is a cornerstone

of the World Food Program's recovery, reconstruction and development portfolio. The

participants not only get food aid because they have been identified as among the

most vulnerable people in the country, but they also create assets - roads, canals

and irrigation ponds - that benefit their entire community.

Food-for-work beneficiaries in Cambodia are not starving, but they do need our assistance

to improve their household food security, to provide adequate nutrition for young

family members and to upgrade their local infrastructure. Their participation in

the creation of a community asset means that they do not fall into dependency on

food aid and consequently lose the means and motivation to achieve economic autonomy.

WFP investigated exhaustively to determine the extent of the diversion of its food

aid and is cooperating closely with the Royal Government of Cambodia on the restitution

of the losses.

The RCG has acknowledged its responsibility for the losses and is committed to repaying

the missing stocks. The rice returned to WFP will be channeled straight into WFP's

Country Program and distributed to the beneficiaries in the food-for-work programs.

Moreover, the RCG will hold accountable those primarily responsible for the fraud,

through either judicial or administrative procedures. WFP is and will continue to

be accountable and transparent to the people of Cambodia, the RGC, the international

donor community and the hungry poor world wide whom it has committed to serve.

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