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Anti-graft body outlines plan

THE head of the Anticorruption Unit said yesterday that he had submitted a draft sub-decree to the Council of Ministers that calls for around 100,000 public officials to declare their assets.

Om Yentieng, who is also a senior adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen and chairman of the government-run Cambodian Human Rights Committee, said at a press conference that he did not know when the sub-decree would be approved, but that he expects the declarations to be received by the beginning of November.

He also noted that, in accordance with the Anticorruption Law passed in March, high-ranking government officials would not be the only people required to declare their assets.

“The law clearly states [our role as] combating graft in all forms, all sectors, and at all levels of corruption,” he said, and added that lower-ranking officials and members of the private sector deemed by the ACU to be “vulnerable to corruption” could also be ordered to submit asset declarations.

“Private sector and foreigners will not escape the law,” he said.

All members of the ACU will be required to declare their assets, he added. “Everyone at the ACU, even the guard at the door, has to declare their assets,” he said. Om Yentieng said that the declarations would not be made public.

“The ACU has to keep the document: The declaration is not public, but the ACU can open it and look at it anytime.”

Asset declarations limited
Yim Sovann, lawmaker and spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, said yesterday that a lack of transparency on the part of the ACU would compromise the effectiveness of the asset-declaration process.

“They should declare publicly their assets,” he said. “If they declare in an envelope to the anticorruption body, nobody knows.”

He said this was particularly worrisome because the ACU was predominantly composed of members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

“From the beginning we were concerned about the content of the law, and we do not trust the composition of the anticorruption body because most of them come from the CPP, and we do not believe they can operate independently from the Council of Ministers,” he said.

Former Hong Kong anti-graft chief Tony Kwok, who last week led a three-day workshop to help the ACU develop a strategic plan, said the asset-declaration process was an important but limited measure in combating corruption.

“Although asset declaration is a good corruption-prevention measure, I think it is only a very small part of the overall anticorruption strategy,” he said.

One of its drawbacks, he said, is that corrupt officials are unlikely to declare assets that would implicate themselves.

Kwok said investigative methods would ultimately be the most effective tools in fighting corruption, and that the ACU last week decided to implement a “three-pronged” approach focusing on intervention, education and law enforcement.

“Under the section of enforcement, we agreed to set up a 24-hour complaints hotline in order to receive complaints from the public,” he said.

“On the corruption-intervention side, we agreed to launch a system where every ministry should have an anticorruption panel to clean their own houses, which will be monitored by the ACU.”

The education component, he said, would consist of public-awareness campaigns and “moral education” in schools.

Kwok said he was encouraged by Cambodia’s Anticorruption Law, as well as by the commitment ACU members had shown to combating
corruption.

“My own observation is that Cambodia is going to have a good start in fighting corruption,” he said.

“They have passed the law, they have a good chairman, [and] they have adopted a very comprehensive strategy.”

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