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Public procurement law passes Assembly

The National Assembly yesterday passed Cambodia’s first law on public procurement in a bid to fight the endemic corruption in the public sector.

The legislation was passed unanimously after a one-hour debate. All members of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party boycotted the vote.

“Let it be abundantly clear – no perpetrator escapes from the law’s net,” senior lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party Cheam Yeap said during the proclamation of the law. “There will be a serious penalty for all levels of civil servants who act contrary to the provisions of the law,” he said.

Previously, public procurement has been governed by a fragmented legal framework spread out over several prakhas, sub-decrees and internal guidelines.

The World Bank and Asia Develop Bank have both previously called on the Kingdom to remedy the legal loopholes in the law.

However, the legal framework adopted yesterday does not appear to be the comprehensive law that development partners have been insisting on.

Procurement planning, implementation monitoring and procurement methods for all acquisitions by state agencies and institutions are ignored by the legislation.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said members had boycotted voting for the law because they did not believe it would make a difference to the rampant corruption in the public sector.

“If the Cambodian People’s Party still is the ruling power, I do not believe that the corruption will go down, because corruption is a center-row pillar of the ruling party,” Yim Sovann told the Post.

“Projects relating to millions of dollars of land concessions are still happening with no proper bidding process, and the national budget is always missing this and missing that.”

The new Law on Public Procurement also does not provide for any investigation or complaints procedures.

Minister of Economics and Finance Keat Chhun told the National Assembly that the law was part of the government’s reform of public finance, saying it would “increase transparency and confidence” and “defeat the corruption that causes such losses to the state’s budget”.

Unlike fellow opposition party the SRP, the Human Rights Party took part in the vote.

“We support the meaning of this law because it is very important,” HRP president Kem Sokha told the Post. “The international community, especially donors, have demanded this law for a long time.”

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