The long-awaited audit of the Ministry of Economy and Finance's (MEF) draft
budget for 2001 was released to the National Assembly at the end of
But critics denounced it as an incomplete audit that gave
little insight into the true workings of the MEF. The National Audit Authority
(NAA) claimed the audit was done to the best of the abilities of the fledgling
The report, released to the banking and finance committees at
both the Assembly and the Senate, was compiled by the NAA, the donor-approved
watchdog with the responsibility to oversee the financial dealings of government
The report was the first to be released by the NAA since the
appointment of its auditor-general in August 2001, and took seven months to
complete. It analyzed MEF expenditure and revenue collection in
Chan Tani, NAA secretary-general, said the public and Assembly
would decide whether the report was up to scratch.
"This is the first
year this country has been through audit so everything is new. We did our best
and reported what we found."
But critics at the Assembly and within the
NAA decried the lack of investigation into customs, tax, and other revenue
A source within the banking and finance commission, who
spoke on condition on anonymity, said the report was disappointing.
was very short and not up to date," he said. "I am not happy because ... there
is no detail. The report has almost no content. It cannot be evidence that the
expenditure was accurate."
The report stated that customs offices at
Pochentong Airport, Sihanoukville Port, and road checkpoints were audited, but
other offices around the country were not.
Similarly, only the tax and
customs department in Phnom Penh was audited, with no data collected from the
provinces. The report also stated there was not enough data to fully audit
forestry, fisheries and mine concessions.
Sin Po, deputy auditor-general
of the NAA, said he was unsure whether it gave a full picture.
a complete audit, they only generalize," he said. "In order to do auditing work,
we have to go to the bottom, not just look at things superficially.
auditor mentioned that he did not make a complete audit of tax collection. They
said that [at some] offices they did not do auditing, therefore they cannot
evaluate the whole complete picture of tax collection."
defended the NAA's investigations, and said taking samples was
"In an audit you don't audit everything," he said. "You don't
have the manpower and the time, so we take a sample, just as any auditor
The NAA was also criticized for releasing the report after the
National Assembly debated and passed the 2003 Budget.
should have been presented [before the 2003 Budget debate]," said Po, "but
unfortunately it was not available."
The Asian Development Bank (ADB),
which provided financial and technical assistance to the agency, attributed the
delay to the infancy of the authority.
"It is just the beginning," said
ADB country head Urooj Malik. "It is one of the first audits that the NAA has
done. A lot more has to be done ... capacity has to be built up."
insisted internal wrangling was responsible for the delay, and disagreed with
the suggestion that inadequate human resources were to blame.
have a goal you can do a lot," he said. " I think we do have sufficient
resources to ... get a clear picture of what is going on."
chairman of the National Assembly's banking and finance committee, conceded that
the report was not perfect, but said it would take time to develop satisfactory
"There are some problems," he said. "It is not of the
high standard the government wants [but] the NAA is new for Cambodia and all the
people working there have not much experience."
The NAA will next audit
the Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries and the Ministry of Posts and