The 2003 audit of some government ministries and institutions will be sent to the
National Assembly once the body officially convenes, said Chan Tani, secretary general
of the National Audit Authority (NAA). An examination of Ministry of Economic and
Finance's (MEF) 2002 budget is also on the agenda.
Tani said the NAA had nearly completed audits of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries
and Forestry, the customs office in Sihanoukville and Poipet, the Ministry of Rural
Development and the Electricity Authority of Cambodia.
"Some reports we found had irregularities, but we still give time to individual
government institutions to check our report before sending to the National Assembly,"
All findings from the NAA and specific ministries would be included in a final submission
to the National Assembly, he said. Tani declined to elaborate on the findings before
the debate before the legislature.
The donor-approved watchdog has operated since 2001. The NAA is intended to promote
good governance through financial accountability of the government. As part of its
mission, it regularly evaluates the government's financial performance and reports
back to the National Assembly. However, it has been widely criticized in the past
for sloppy and incomplete audits of state finances.
Tani said that while the NAA is authorized to oversee government institutions and
ministries, the body often encounters difficulties in obtaining financial records,
especially from MEF.
"Auditing is a new concept for Cambodia and some officials at the government's
institutions worry about our findings," said Tani. "We are not trying to
pick out mistakes of the government, but we want to improve the accountability about
the national income and expenditure in order to bring the budget under control."
In the past, Minister of MEF, Keat Chhon acknowledged that the government loses as
much as $100 million per year due to corruption.
The opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) has long criticized the government for graft
and the liquidation of public assets.
The Alliance of Democrats, the political union between Funcinpec and SRP, wrote on
December 22 that such corruption squandered vast benefits from Cambodia's inland
The joint-statement wrote that while the country's fisheries are estimated to be
worth $500 million annually by Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT), the state
budget only registered an income from the sector of $5 million in 2003.
Keo Remy, opposition lawmaker from SRP, criticized the NAA as a way of legitimizing
corrupt finances under the control of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP).
The head of the NAA, auditor-general Uth Chhorn, is from the CPP and both his two
deputies are from Funcinpec.
"I think that the CPP established the National Audit Authority to hide the corrupt
activity committed by CPP ministries and institutions after donor countries appealed
for reduction of corruption," said Remy.
However, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has supported NAA from its inception by
providing technical assistance for the government's attempt to improve transparency
and the accountability of public finance.
Urooj Malik, ADB country director head, told the Post on December 15 that he approved
of the NAA's progress thus far.
"We were satisfied with the way progress has been made and the capacity that
has been built," said Urooj.
Tani said that for 2004, the NAA plans to audit the Ministries of Foreign Affairs,
Public Works and Transport, Health and Education. It will also look at balance sheets
from the 2003 national budget, the National Authority of Civil Aviation, Phnom Penh
Water authority, Sihanoukville port, National Institute of Management and private
companies that received concessions from the state. Those reports will be completed
within a year, he said.