Corruption is weighing on businesses, and the avenues to address it are limited, according to Cambodia’s leading employer association.
At a joint conference with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Cambodian Federation of Employers (CAMFEBA) in Phnom Penh yesterday, the employer representative called on the government to provide greater protection for company whistleblowers, and to spearhead a review into corruption within the courts so companies feel they are operating on a level playing field.
“It is quite well known that there is quite a lot of corruption in the judicial system, said Matthew Rendall, a CAMFEBA board member who spoke at the conference. “One of the areas of concern is that inequitable access to the judiciary is impeding business,” he said.
Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Unit, a government body, is the only organisation that has the mandate to complete such a review of the judiciary, Rendall added.
The ACU, responsible for cracking down on government graft, has targeted some court officials in its investigations. A spokesman declined to comment about the proposed review.
Ith Sam Heng, the Minister of Labour and Vocational Training, told reporters after the conference that the investment and business climate has to be transparent in order to ensure progress and development.
CAMFEBA called for whistleblower protection provisions to be written into anti-corruption laws and for the broader promotion of the laws, which would encourage people to come forward. In lieu of protections, CAMFEBA established its own mechanism last year for collecting confidential reports of corruption and bribery from businesses that they are then able to collate and send to the ACU.
Using their own reports, the ILO and CAMFEBA yesterday both shared similar data from a business survey the groups carried out together. The employer representative then made its policy recommendations.
The ILO estimate that 10 per cent of GDP is lost annually to corruption, an issue they say is the largest constraint for businesses. And despite improvements over the past decade, 30 per cent of businesses believe that policy is set by those with powerful government connections.
But, “it takes two to tango”, said ILO senior economist, Farid Hegazy.
While there are some in the private sector creating their own codes of conduct or training employees on how to deal with corrupt officials, when faced with graft, most companies operating in Cambodia take no action, the survey revealed.