Once the NEC announces the final results of the commune elections, the focus
will shift to Cambodia's newly elected 1,621 commune councils spread over 20
provinces and the four municipalities of Phnom Penh, Kep, Sihanoukville and
Under the commune election law, councils are required to hold
their first meeting within 14 days of the final results, which will be announced
between February 19-22 after considering all objections and recounts.
senior official at the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said the first meeting would
be headed by deputy chiefs of the respective districts and would essentially
mark the transfer of the mandate and commune property from CPP-appointed commune
chiefs to the newly elected commune councils.
"Before starting their
work, however, the councils need to prepare a detailed charter of their internal
rules, guidelines and procedures for conducting the council meetings. [The MoI]
will help draft that," he said.
Several organizations including GTZ, UNDP
and the Seila Task Force (STF) have structured a detailed training program to
build the capacity of the new councils.
Three training sessions lasting
up to four days each will begin in March and will teach commune staff how to
prepare development plans and budgets. A total of 11,261 councilors (including
1,621 commune chiefs) will receive training along with 1,800 commune clerks, who
will provide the link between each council and the MoI.
employees of the district and provincial administrations will also receive
training. Further sessions will be held on finance systems and the planning
process for the higher ranking commune councilors.
The National Council
for the Support of Communes (NCSC), whose members are the key national
ministries, will run the training program and coordinate the decentralization
Another of its tasks will be to manage the relationship between
the councils and the provincial administration. Though Cambodia will for the
first time have a two-tier system of elected government - central and communal -
the government has nominated provincial governors to coordinate with the
communes on local administrative and governance issues.
Department of Local Administration (DOLA) will draft procedures and plans which
it will submit to the NCSC. The responsibilities of the commune councils, the
issues they deal with and where their funding will come from are all key
questions it will address.
Leng Vy, head of DOLA, said that although the
specific duties of the councils were not yet finalized, they would have to
maintain harmony in the commune, cooperate with local police to ensure citizens
were safe, and work to improve the quality of life at the local
"These could include plans for building schools, health centers,
drainage and sewer systems, irrigation canals and roads," said Vy. Registering
births and deaths was another task they would take on. Provincial governors
would ensure each commune's plans would match the development plans of the
The Ministry of Economy & Finance has set up a $6.4 million
commune fund to fund councils in the current year. Each commune will get on
average $1,350 to meet the first year's administration expenses; STF will give
around $8,400 to 506 communes for specific development projects.
program manager Scott Leiper said the extra cash was available to those communes
that had drawn up development plans and budgets in advance. By 2003 most
communes will have development committees that will decide on local
"The communes supported by Seila, by virtue of their having
being part of the [pilot] decentralization project, hold a long experience in
debating local development issues and drafting detailed development plans," said
Initially communes will raise 5 percent of their budget locally,
either by asking for contributions from better-off residents or by organizing
fairs and similar programs. Going forward they are expected to increase the
amount of money raised through local taxation.
"In addition to [central
government] support - expected to be around 2 percent of annual domestic revenue
next year - councils will also carry out agency functions for individual
ministries and receive direct funding for specific projects like building rural
roads, health centers or irrigation canals," said the MoI official.
residents need to know more about the role and responsibilities of their commune
councils. To achieve this several NGOs will run awareness programs across the
country starting in Kampong Cham February 14.
"If the councils are to
play a vital and decisive role in the development process, they must work in
close cooperation with people in the villages. And the villagers, in turn,
should be prepared to share their ideas with their [elected] representatives,"
said Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Development.
concern is that communes headed by Funcinpec or the opposition SRP might face
discrimination when funds are allocated or projects approved. The best advice,
say experts, is to wait a year and see what happens, as checks and balances have
not been decided on.
STF, which supports some communes through its
partnership program, reckons it will not be a problem, provided there is enough
external support to ensure free and fair local governance during the first term.