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Audit says govt owed $100m

Audit says govt owed $100m

Results to be made public for the first time next month.

ASOON-to-be-released audit of the nation's 2006  budget indicates that "many companies" owe the government a total between US$70 and $100 million - an indication that the government needs to implement "stricter measures to collect those debts", the head of the National Assembly's banking and finance committee told the Post Wednesday.

"We are trying to find better ways for the government to collect debts from businesses," Cheam Yeap, a senior CPP lawmaker, told the Post.

"We will ask the government about some sectors that have shown a lack of transparency in the spending of the national budget," he said, adding that he had seen an advanced copy of the 2006 audit, which the National Audit Authority (NAA) plans to release next month.

Since 2006, the government has marginally improved tax collection and money management with just over $1 billion collected in 2007, up from $656 million two years earlier, Finance Minister Keat Chhon said in May last year at the conclusion of an annual review of the financial sector.

NAA General Auditor Uth Chhorn announced Wednesday a plan to release the 2006 audit, which he said would bolster transparency and accountability of government institutions and businesses.

He said the audit would detail the amount of debt still-owed to the government by multiple businesses operating in the Kingdom that have neglected to pay sufficient taxes or failed to pay rent on government-owned property.

"We want to be open to the public," Uth Chhorn said during a workshop on the national budget held at the National Assembly.

He said the audit - which also includes surveys of all government ministries and institutions - would also highlight accounting mistakes and other "inaccurate practices" that were not in line with the Kingdom's financial laws.

He said the NAA had recorded 344 instances of financial "irregularities" on the part of government ministries and institutions between 2001 and 2008.

Donald Bowser, chief of party at the NGO Pact Cambodia, said he welcomed the release of the audit as "a good action and a big step which can lead to transparency".

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