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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New report shows conflicting ‘ghost’ pay tally

New report shows conflicting ‘ghost’ pay tally

A REPORT distributed this week at a conference on public-sector reform includes an update on the government’s census of civil servants that differs from one provided by officials in May.

Ngo Hongly, the secretary general of the Council for Administrative Reform at the Council of Ministers, said on May 18 that the census, which was launched in April, had revealed 2,000 “ghost” civil servants, or workers who are still on the state’s payroll despite having left their jobs. At the time, the government had audited 21 of the 26 government ministries, and had not yet started on offices at the provincial level.

But the report that was distributed on Tuesday, the first day of a two-day conference held at the Council of Ministers says that 1,747 of those names had been provided by government bodies at all levels back in March, before the census was launched. In addition to these self-reported names, the report states, the census has independently uncovered “more than 400 irregular names”.

Asked about the report on Wednesday, Ngo Hongly said, “1,747 is the number of civil servants’ names we received from the ministry, municipalities and provincial levels, which means they were reported from around the country. So, if we sum up 1,747 plus 400, we actually will get more than 2,000 names, which we have already removed from the government payrolls.”

The current census is the third such effort undertaken by the Cambodian government, Ngo Hongly said in May. A 1995 census uncovered roughly 18,000 ghost civil servants, he said, and a census conducted in 2000 and 2001 revealed about 9,000 ghost civil servants.

He also estimated that the 2,000 ghost civil servants uncovered so far this year were costing the government US$2 million per year, and that they were being paid an average of $84 per month.

The report distributed on Tuesday says that audits of all 26 ministries have been completed, and that the government is set to launch audits at the provincial level on June 28.

“More ghost names will be found in the provincial census,” Ngo Hongly said Wednesday.

Officials have said that the census will be completed by the end of the year, but they have declined to say whether anyone caught pocketing the salaries of ghost civil servants will be prosecuted under the Anticorruption Law, which is set to go into effect in November.

In May, Ngo Hongly said that no officials currently working in the government had been discovered pocketing ghost salaries.

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