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Anti-graft unit seen as unprepared

THE government’s Anticorruption Unit needs more training before it will be in a position to effectively combat graft, officials said at a ceremony marking the completion of a nine-week training programme Thursday.

The Anticorruption Unit (ACU), which operates under the Council of Ministers and is expected to assume responsibility for the day-to-day investigation of corruption in the public and private sectors, was established in August 2006 but is still in its development phase, said member Sar Sambath.

The long-awaited Anticorruption Law, passed in March, includes provisions that would give the ACU the ability to punish, among other things,
“illicit enrichment”, an unexplained increase in an individual’s wealth. The law is set to come into effect in November.

However, Sar Sambath said Thursday that he did not know precisely how the ACU would operate under the new law.

“We don’t know when we can identify an area for investigation of corruption issues yet, because we need more training for the officials,” he said, and added: “Our priority now is to strengthen education for the officials.”

He said that the ACU would soon launch a campaign to raise awareness of corruption among the general public.

“An education campaign for the public is the worldwide basic to begin fighting corruption,” he said. “We would not be able to crack down on corruption while the public has not yet realised the corrupt activities.”

Kheang Seng, head of the ACU’s law enforcement section, said in a statement issued Thursday that the training programme, which was attended by senior officials and ACU members, was designed to spread information on procedures for conducting financial investigations, the management of complaints and cases, and asset-declaration requirements.

Flynn Fuller, mission director of USAID, which funded the training, said Thursday that he had received reports that it had gone “very well”, but suggested that the ACU was not yet ready to become fully operational.

“It is a good start and has addressed some of the basic needs of the ACU,” he said. “However, it is only a beginning, and there is more needed to develop the capacity of the ACU as an effective anticorruption enforcement agency.”

Sar Sambath said the ACU currently has 56 staff members, and that officials are considering whether it needs to be expanded in light of the passage of the Anticorruption Law.

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