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Standard forms aim for public bid transparency

The Ministry of Economy and Finance on Monday announced the release of standardised bidding forms for public contracts, a measure it said would increase transparency and accountability, though the opposition and Transparency International Cambodia offered more cautious assessments yesterday.

According to a state media announcement, the documents would be used across all ministries for procurement and new construction projects, and “will promote a transparent, accountable, fair and equal process and best use of the money at all [of the] government’s institutions”.

In the past, the government has had a spotty record of enforcing existing public bidding regulations.

Chinese-funded infrastructure projects have been criticised for their opaque bidding processes, and last year the $1.2 million contract for the construction of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk’s crematorium was awarded, sans bid, to a company owned by the daughter of Royal Palace Minister Kong Sam Ol.

Though a step in the right direction, the ministry’s new forms are unlikely to serve as a cure-all for the Kingdom’s bidding woes, Transparency International Cambodia executive director Preap Kol said.

“Ideally, it should make the documents and bidding process more open and accessible to interested companies, or make the accountability a bit improved, but it’s not guaranteed.

“Procurement in a country like Cambodia plays a huge role in corruption,” he continued, noting that firms should be proven to be free of ties to officials granting the contracts. “Without [scrutiny] . . . and sanctions for companies that violate those rules, the companies won’t comply,” he said.

Opposition lawmaker-elect Son Chhay agreed, adding that despite regulations requiring bidding, government officials had long used sub-decrees and sly dealing to circumvent them, and that laws on bidding had been amended so many times that he no longer knew what the penalties were for violators.

“There is a system in this country where any ministry in charge of any project would . . . give [the contract] to their friends or relatives so they can make some money,” he said.

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