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
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.