A Ministry of Information department director denied wrongdoing yesterday after the Anti-Corruption Unit released a letter on Friday detailing allegations of bribery, nepotism and improper hiring practices, as well as the accused official’s response.
The letter presents anonymous accusations against Phos Sovann, director general of the Department of Information and Broadcasting, of accepting some $15,000 in bribes from three officials in exchange for their hiring.
The three named officials are Pum Pisey, Yin Marady and Kang Chum, who allegedly paid $4,000, $5,000 and $6,000, respectively. The three could not be reached yesterday. They also accuse Sovann of hiring two of his children in the department and appointing them to important positions handling finances and personnel.
“I just want to say that I support such a complaint,” Sovann said over the phone before noting the accusers “might be confused”. “It is actually the ministry who requested those officials [that I hired].”
Sovann also downplayed the role of his children in the department, but did say one is his daughter, who held a minor position handling paperwork, and the other was his son.
“I hire him as a driver just on the weekends,” he said, noting that his son otherwise didn’t have a job.
According to Sovann’s response, which is included in the ACU letter, the three officials who allegedly paid bribes were hired through “special recruitment”, as opposed to being hired following a standardised civil service examination.
In the letter, Sovann says Pisey was hired because she was the daughter of retired ministry official Lay Pum, who “worked hard” for the ministry. Sovann justified Marady’s contract by saying that he previously volunteered for “many important events” before being hired. Chum, meanwhile, is a retired Ministry of Public Works and Transport official whom Sovann said was needed by the department for his “advanced English skills”.
San Chey, from the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said paying bribes in exchange for positions is a “chronic disease” afflicting government institutions.
As far as culpability, he said, “the bribe taker and giver are the same”.
“When they got the job in the wrong way, [one can’t] talk about reform or being transparent in fulfilling public service.”