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Ministry keeps quiet over scam

Ministry keeps quiet over scam

SENIOR officials in the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) convened into the night

of August 14 to "solve the problem" of a $1.3 million corruption scam besieging

the office, ministry administrative staff said.

Minister of Finance Keat Chhon is awaiting the audit report probing an alleged corruption

scam within his ministry. Senior officials and ministry staff refused to speak after

the meeting concluded, and reporters were barred from the building.

The alleged scam was brought to light by wealthy businessman Sok Kong who heads Sokimex,

one of the country's best connected companies, and who is also president of the Phnom

Penh Chamber of Commerce (PPCC).

Sorn Sokna, a vice chairman of Sokimex and the deputy at the PPCC, said Kong had

sent a letter criticizing the government bid after a complaint from a PPCC member.

He said that member was the previous holder of the uniform contract, who claimed

the process had been rigged.

Sokna added that Kong had urged Prime Minister Hun Sen to reject the $1.3 million

contract, which is to procure uniforms for officials in the Customs and Excise Department.

"The company complained to us, because the bidding for the contract was not

fair or announced publicly," he said. "The [MEF] kept it secret for their

people. They didn't announce it to many newspapers."

Sokna said this marked the second time the PPCC had criticized an MEF decision. Three

months ago, it complained after the ministry awarded a drugs contract.

"We need the government to consider the quality and price when accepting a tender,"

Sokna said.

The publicity around the recent case led the MEF to issue a statement calling on

the press to refrain from reporting on the issue until the audit was completed. The

August 12 announcement asked newspapers to "please keep quiet" while it

completed the investigation. It has not issued any statement on the progress of the

probe since.

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