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Officials rush to meet asset declaration deadline

As of January 25, nearly 20,000 civil servants had come forward to declare their assets as part of the Anti-Corruption Unit’s second round of mandatory declarations, with 819 filing on Friday alone, the ACU said.

In a speech on January 22  encouraging officials to get their documents in order, Prime Minister Hun Sen said there were about 23,000 civil servants in the country, meaning that, according to the ACU’s announcement, roughly 3,900 government employees had yet to file their declarations ahead of the January 31 cut-off.

“Now the Anti-Corruption Unit is working the whole week and on holidays for all civil servants who come to declare before the deadline on January 31,” the Saturday press release reads.

While dropping off his own asset declaration paperwork on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Keat Chhun expressed his approval of the ACU’s efforts in combating corruption — adding that, because of the ACU, tax fraud was declining, although he declined to offer specifics.

“I admire the Anti-Corruption Unit’s efforts to go against corruption in Cambodia, especially in the tax sector,” Chhun said.

Though intended to curb graft among government officials, the program has come under fire from civil society and opposition parliamentarians, who have criticised its lack of transparency.

For example, according to the ACU, the envelopes containing civil servants’ paperwork can be opened only by the ACU’s chairman, and even then only in the event of an already opened investigation.

In spite of the near-ironclad confidentiality, 10 tycoons granted the honorific of “oknha” left their government posts rather than file their paperwork in the ACU’s first round of asset declarations in 2011.

ACU official Sieng Borath noted at the time the resignations were not signs of guilt but practical measures taken by oknhas who feared some of their properties would be accidentally left out. 

To contact the reporter on this story: Sen David at david.sen@phnompenhpost.com

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