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Funding ‘not misused’

Police officers stand guard during a ceremony for casting concrete to connect Neak Loeung Bridge
Police officers stand guard during a ceremony for casting concrete to connect Neak Loeung Bridge in Kandal province on Wednesday. AFP

Funding ‘not misused’

During a defence of his 30-year legacy on Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen also took pains to extricate the nation’s newest, longest and most expensive bridge from corruption allegations.

Varying announcements of the total cost for the Japanese-funded Neak Loeung Bridge in Kandal led to speculation that the government pocketed money or overcharged in order to make a profit.

“I would like to announce to the people across the country that they have wrongfully accused the government of inappropriately using foreign funds,” said Hun Sen, speaking at the bridge’s inauguration.

Rather than embezzling aid, both the government and Japanese International Cooperation Agency maintained any discrepancy in costs was the result of fluctuating currency conversions between the Japanese yen and US dollar.

“The total project cost is about 9 billion yen. It can be 80 million USD or 130 million USD according to different foreign exchange rates,” said Fukuzawa Daisuke of JICA.

Though the original bridge contract set out an 11.9 billion-yen budget, Daisuke said the figure represented the maximum amount, and that the lower total spent did not translate into a pocketed surfeit.

“We manage our fund very strictly without any intervention by the Cambodian side. I can say there is no corruption in this project,” he said.

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