In a country where corruption is as rife as it is in Cambodia, global brands must work with governments to ensure garment factories are safe and working conditions legal, international NGO Transparency International (TI) said yesterday.
Responding to reports that some retailers will leave Bangladesh following the Rana Plaza factory collapse that killed more than 1,100 people in April, TI said brands should instead work towards safer, less corrupt markets in countries from which they buy.
In Cambodia, where two workers were killed when a ceiling collapsed at the Wing Star Shoes factory on May 16, corruption is more extreme than in Bangladesh, TI said.
According to TI, 0 suggests extreme corruption, while 100 makes a country “highly clean”.
Cambodia scored 22, making it perceived as more corrupt than Bangladesh (26), Pakistan (27) and Vietnam (31).
“This suggests widespread corruption risk, which could make safety inspection vulnerable to bribery,” a statement from TI says.
Leng Tong, director of the Ministry of Labour’s occupational health and safety department, said corruption had been an issue among some government officials whose work focused on the garment sector.
“We’ve investigated certain officials who have taken money while inspecting factories,” he said, without elaborating on how many. “We have suspended them.”
Those officials, however, were not actually fired, he added.
Jason Judd, a technical specialist for the International Labour Organization’s monitoring program Better Factories Cambodia (BFC), declined to comment on whether corruption was as prevalent in the garment sector as elsewhere in the country. BFC’s compliance assessments, which focus primarily on working conditions, did not cover some issues raised by TI, including bribery and collusion when it came to licensing and permits, he said.
Dave Welsh, American Center for International Labor Solidarity country manager, said brands, factories and the government needed to respond better to issues raised by BFC.
Welsh added that because Ministry of Labour officials were underpaid, “perhaps they are less inclined to do their jobs and more susceptible to alternative modes of payment”.
Additional reporting by Mom Kunthear