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SME’s hit by unofficial fees request changes

CAMBODIA’S Small and Medium Enterprise Association has asked for the government  to open bank accounts to receive payments from businesses, intending to cut down on unofficial payments demanded by some officials.

In discussions between the Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Energy and SME representatives late last week, the SME association’s executive director Lun Yeng said officials often asked for extra fees beyond those laid out by government guidelines.

“Generally, and honestly speaking, when officials and businesses meet, they demand money,” he said. “It is not a problem if they do not meet [face to face].”

Opening bank accounts would create a paper trail for payments to MIME, making it easier to trace corruption by government officials, he said.

“We [the association members] already comply with the law, we just want to pay into state-opened accounts to reduce corruption,” he said, adding that corruption was not only a problem among public officials, but also the private sector.

Employees often made unofficial payments without business owners’ knowledge, which were difficult to confirm at present.

Meng Saktheara, director general of the Ministry’s General Department of Industry, said he supported opening bank accounts for SMEs, but cautioned it could take some time for the initiative to become a reality.

Implementing the bank accounts initiative would require discussions with the Ministry of Economy and Finance. The banks also often charged fees, and restricted smaller payments, which he said would need to be addressed before accounts could be open.

“A few officials are bad, but lots are good,” he said. “We do not think it is good for officials to ask for money.”

Rajana Handicraft Association administrator Heang Sopheara said she supported the initiative to pay into government accounts, because officials often demand money in private meetings.

“I think the sooner this initiative is implemented, the better. It will make it easier for companies and other enterprises,” she said.

Om Yentieng, head of the Anti-Corruption Unit, claimed he was too busy to discuss the issue.

Sek Borisot, director of Pact Media Program – which monitors issues surrounding corruption – said he did not yet have an in-depth understanding of the issue, but added any move that was likely to reduce corruption would be beneficial.

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