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Workers construct a section of the road
Workers construct a section of the road on the southern outskirts of Phnom Penh earlier this month. Heng Chivoan

ACU to police public tender process

Corruption watchdogs yesterday called on the Cambodian government to stamp out corrupt practices within the public procurement process during the first public forum on the Kingdom’s Budget Law.

Speaking at the forum at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia (TI) said the Kingdom’s road construction projects were being affected by illicit payments between private and public sector institutions.

“I urge the ministry and relevant institutions to take a closer look at public procurement process,” Kol said.

“I have evidence to show that construction contractors are often asked to pay ‘tea’ money to land the public bidding process, which in turn forces companies to cut some of the project’s budget and results in poor quality roads.”

Cambodia passed its Public Procurement Law in 2012 after numerous calls from both the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to design comprehensive guidelines to manage public spending and eradicate loopholes in the process.

Prior to the passing of the 2012 law, public procurement was governed by a set of fragmented legal frameworks spread out over several prakas, sub-decrees and internal guidelines.

Cambodia’s public procurement law states that all cases of corruption in the process will be reported the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU).

Admitting that Cambodia’s 2012 procurement law alone had not been enough to stamp out corruption, Economic and Finance Minister Aun Pornmoniroth said the ACU would now oversee every public tender process.

“We have had the procurement law set out since 2012, but we still lack regulation and guidelines detailing exactly the process of public procurement,” he said.

“We have been in discussions with the Anti-Corruption Unit, so that they can monitor the public procurement process from the beginning. Corruption starts at the selling of the application for bidding, to reviewing applicant’s document and then in evaluating documents.”

“In addition to publishing procurement documents on government websites, we will now also have ACU observe the process,” Pormoniroth vowed.

Nuon Bophal, deputy head of ACU, said that until now the corruption watchdog had overseen just a handful of public procurement processes, but only at the request of the relevant ministries.

“The ACU observation on public procurement is to make sure the process is according to the Public Procurement Law,” Bophal said, adding that he was unaware of the discussions mentioned by the government minister.

Chan Sophal, spokesperson of Cambodian Economic Association (CEA), who also joined yesterday’s forum, welcomed the government’s cooperation with the ACU, however he remained sceptical over whether it would solve the issue.

“I believe the involvement from ACU officials is a solution to fight corruption in the procurement process, however, we cannot expect that their cooperation will automatically solve corruption in the process,” he said.

“Corruption in the public procurement process results in the loss of national budget funds and quality-reduction of infrastructure being built as planned,” he added.

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