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Cambodia ‘near bottom’ in budget transparency

Cambodia's government ranks among the worst in the world in terms of budget transparency and has shown zero improvement since 2010, according to a biennial report released by an international transparency group yesterday.

According to the report from International Budget Partnership, which was presented at a conference by a coalition of NGOs including the NGO Forum and Transparency International Cambodia, the country scored 15 out of a possible 100 points – the same as in 2010 – putting its score between Nigeria and Egypt in a group of countries identified as providing “scant or no information” about their budgets.  

The failing grade, the report says, is largely attributable to the Kingdom’s failure to make key budgetary documents – such as draft budgets and audit reports – accurate, useful and available to the public.

“Publishing the [budget] report, making it transparent, is just part of the process,” maintained Transparency International Cambodia Executive Director Preap Kol.

Failing to do so, he said, “may create a question mark as to whether the government has a real will for change”.

Kol also advocated a wait-and-see approach, noting that the 2014 survey “will tell whether the political will is there or not”.

In the meantime, noted In Samrithy of NGO Education Partnership, uncertainty over the budget among teachers was already causing disruptions in the education sector, and Ros Sopheap of Gender and Development for Cambodia similarly cited a dearth of specificity on funding for women-centric issues in the national budget.

According to opposition parliamentarian Son Chhay, Cambodia’s draft budget isn’t even made public to lawmakers outside of a select few in the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

“No one besides the ruling CPP has a right to know or a right to decide on a yearly budget of the country,” he said, while noting that corruption accounts for hundreds of millions in lost revenue each year.

“We are left in the dark,” he added. “We are representing all the provinces, but we don’t even know what they’re doing in Phnom Penh.”

However, Phenn Rithipol, the bureau chief of the Ministry of Economics and Finance’s Department of Budget, maintained at yesterday’s conference that there was “no secret or reason behind” not publicising budgetary matters, but that there was simply no money with which to do so.

During his remarks, Rithipol allowed that there was “a lack of information sharing,” but urged patience, saying that ministry employees worked a difficult schedule, and were “very busy”.

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