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Sand stats ‘correct’: government

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Two Mother Nature activists travel past moored sand dredgers as they inspect the condition of the Tatai River last year in Koh Kong province. Athena Zelandonii

Sand stats ‘correct’: government

At a government-organised forum on sand exports yesterday, a Ministry of Mines and Energy official said an investigation had been carried out into huge discrepancies in data on sand export from Cambodia to Singapore but that the probe found no irregularities.

UN data show Cambodia’s customs reported 2.8 million tonnes of sand exports to Singapore from 2007 to 2015, while Singapore recorded 72.2 million tonnes in imports during the same period. A ministry official yesterday said they had recorded about 16 million tonnes of exports to Singapore for the same period – still a discrepancy of some 56 million tonnes.

However, Dith Tina, spokesman and secretary of state for the ministry, said on the sidelines of the forum that the investigation found the ministry’s figures to be “correct”.

When asked what the investigation had looked into, Tina referred questions to fellow secretary of state and spokesman Meng Saktheara, who he said, had carried out the review. Saktheara, meanwhile, said his investigation, which was launched early last month, found no irregularities, but acknowledged it did find “loopholes”.

“The figures released by the Ministry of Mines and Energy are correct figures of sand export volume permitted by the ministry,” he said. “If there is evidence pointing to a licence holder committing illegal exports or contradicting the export permit terms, the ministry will take legal action.”

Among the areas examined were compliance by licensed sand dredgers, performance by the provincial mines department in Koh Kong in monitoring dredging operations, and procedural requirements for granting export invoices.

The findings showed a need for improvement of export procedures, Saktheara added.

For example, in order to properly grant an export invoice, a shipment inspection is required, he said. But given the limited capacity of the provincial department, it often relied on certification and clearance from port authorities. “This has to be improved,” he said. “If they are required to inspect the shipment, they will have to inspect the shipment, instead of relying on other entities.”

As part of a new process now in the works, Saktheara said companies will be required to inform the ministry a week in advance of loading a shipment so that an inspection team can be deployed. They will also be required to have a pre-export and post-export declaration to ensure that the quantities of materials leaving Cambodia and entering Singapore, for example, are indeed the same.

According to a spokesperson from Singapore’s Ministry of National Development, the city-state “will investigate any such instances and take enforcement action, if evidence is provided” of wrongdoing.

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