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Money still owed in Global Fund scandal

Money still owed in Global Fund scandal

The Ministry of Health still owes $83,053 to the Global Fund, the remaining portion of $473,300 in misused funds identified by the international donor body in a damning corruption investigation last year.

The results of the more than two-year-long probe were released publicly in November and uncovered significant corruption in two ministry institutions.

All remaining funds are owed by the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control (CNM), which was implicated in the most significant graft in the fund’s investigation, a fund spokesman said on Monday.

The Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) has yet to hold anyone to account for the corruption.

Former CNM director Duong Socheat and an unidentified deputy director were found to have obtained improper commissions from mosquito net suppliers between 2006 and 2011 worth $410,782.

According to fund communications head Seth Faison, the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and STDs (NCHADS) and umbrella NGO MEDiCAM, which were also implicated in the report, have paid back their portions of misused funds in full.

Faison said the fund was still engaging with the government to recover the rest.

The fund threatened in December to slash more than $100 million in health funding if everything was not repaid a month later, but it backed down.

Faison said that the ACU was still being “cooperative”, but declined to comment further.

Huy Rekol, who replaced Char Meng Chuor as CNM director this month, said yesterday he didn’t know about remaining funds, which were not his “responsibility”.

Meng Chuor could not be reached for comment.

Health Minister Mam Bun Heng, who has repeatedly declined to comment on the Global Fund scandal, could also not be reached.

A ministry official who requested anonymity because he feared repercussions said the government believed that complicit individuals, whom he claimed included foreign experts involved in disbursements, should be responsible for repayment.

However, he could not confirm where funds already paid back by CNM and NCHADS had come from.

Socheat, he added, had been questioned by the ACU during their investigation but was now overseas.

ACU deputy chairman Chhay Savuth said that the investigation had been completed but declined to comment further.

Opposition lawmaker Keo Sovannaroth, the recently appointed head of the parliament’s commission on health, said she would team up with the parliament’s anti-corruption commission to question the minister on the issue.

Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said it was important the matter was not buried, lest it become “another obvious case of impunity”.

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