Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday said harsh action will be taken against authorities found committing any irregularities in the disbursement of cash aid for poor and vulnerable families hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I will take strict measures, with no exceptions, if any irregularities are found occurring in any village or commune,” Mr Hun Sen said in a Facebook post yesterday.
He said the “Cash Transfer Programme for Poor and Vulnerable Households During COVID-19” was launched to ensure struggling and impoverished households receive support from the government.
“[The success of] this work depends almost entirely on local authorities, including village chiefs and commune councillors, who must carry out their task clearly and thoroughly,” Mr Hun Sen said.
“To ensure transparency and integrity in the provision of services under the cash relief programme, I strongly urge order among local authorities at all levels, especially those who implement the project directly in all communes, to pay close attention to this work and to avoid any schemes that involve putting their relatives, who are not poor, in the list to receive the cash subsidy,” he said.
Sorn Sok, chief of Koh Samrong commune in Kampong Cham province’s Kampong Siem district, said he had already received the order from the premier and promised to continue providing cash relief for poor and vulnerable households with transparency and integrity.
“I will follow the good recommendation of the prime minister by overseeing the proper provision of the government cash subsidies to support families who are actually poor and vulnerable. I will continuously monitor the activities of the commune and village authorities while carrying out this work to avoid any instances of bribery or the issuance of IDPoor cards to relatives of the authorities,” he said.
Mr Sok said commune councillors have also been working on conducting monthly interviews with residents who submit applications for IDPoor registration. The questions will be following the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Planning and are expected to identify families that fall below the poverty line.
Chum Thoun, a resident of Kilometre Prammuoy commune in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district, said she received an IDPoor card following an interview and a standard check on her living conditions by local authorities.
“I am so happy that I have an IDPoor card which makes me eligible to receive a cash subsidy from the government. The allowance will allow me to buy food and medicine. I’m not getting any younger. I cannot do anything and I am also sick so I just stay at home to look after my grandchildren. Their parents are also facing difficulties as they try to earn a living. Some of my children have been laid off from work,” said the widowed Ms Thoun.
Din Ny, 39, a poor citizen from Kampong Thom province, said he used to have an IDPoor card, which was issued in Tbong Khmum province’s Memot district, but the card expired several months ago.
He said due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he lost his job and was forced to move to Kampong Thom’s Santuk district. Although he has asked commune authorities to issue another IDPoor card for him, he said he has yet to receive any response.
“I laud the government for paying attention to us poor people and advising local authorities to identify which families are really poor and vulnerable. I hope the relevant ministries and officials deliver and help those who are actually struggling during this time,” said Mr Ny.
Him Yun, director of the Coalition for Integrity and Social Accountability, lauded the strict measure of the government, saying low-income earners have borne the brunt of the pandemic.
“I am also concerned about the transparency in providing cash subsidies to the poor, as there were previous claims from impoverished communities that they have not received IDPoor cards despite their standing. Therefore, I hope those who are truly in need will actually benefit from this project,” he said.
Last week, Mr Hun Sen launched the cash relief programme for poor and vulnerable families affected by the coronavirus crisis, with the priority targeted on children under five, persons with disabilities, HIV/AIDS-positive people, or citizens aged 60 or older.
According to the prime minister, more than 560,000 poor and vulnerable families have received their IDPoor cards, with the government planning to disburse a total of $25 million a month in cash allowances.