The Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) will devote itself to cleaning ministries of ghost workers and absentee officials in the coming year, an official said yesterday.
The announcement comes just two days after the National Anti-Corruption Council (NACC) encouraged it to do just that in an evaluation of the body’s work this year.
In an interview yesterday, ACU deputy president Chhay Savuth said that department heads found to be harbouring ghost workers on their payrolls would be axed, but that ministers themselves would be spared, a proposal the opposition lambasted yesterday.
“If any ministry does not leave out [ghost officials] from the ministry [and] we have enough evidence, we will arrest the heads of those departments,” Savuth said.
Ministers, however, couldn’t be expected to be aware of ghost workers in the ministries, he continued, and would therefore escape prosecution.
Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Yim Sovann said the plan was yet another example of the ACU targeting small-time graft, while ignoring corruption at the highest levels.
“If a minister does not know there are ghost names in his ministry, do not be a minister anymore,” Sovann said.
San Chey of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific also questioned the proposition, saying that targeting ministers would be more effective.
“Doing it from the top to the bottom would be an example, so we want to see elimination from the top down,” he said.
In its report on Tuesday, the NACC also said that the ACU had received almost 900 complaints in 2014, but also noted that only 10 had resulted in legal action being taken.