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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - State brain drain feared

State brain drain feared

This year’s termination of salary supplement programmes in the civil service sector could exacerbate the outflow of staff from government positions to more lucrative donor-funded positions, according to a country audit prepared by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The authors of the audit, which was researched late last year and posted to the Global Fund’s website on October 1, warned that the end of salary supplements could cause “low morale, more staff losses in the public sector, a lower quality of performance and an increase in corruption”.

The audit covered grants totalling US$202.5 million.

Before this year, development organisations had been bolstering the often meagre salaries of civil servants in a range of sectors via schemes that were banned by a sub-decree that went into effect on January 1.

In response to outcry from the development community – members of which complained of problems similar to those listed in the Global Fund audit – the government then approved a six-month interim period in which some salary supplement payments were able to go forward.

The Global Fund audit said the government’s handling of the change had “caused confusion”, in part because in 2008 Cambodia ordered all Global Fund grants to be aligned with Merit-Based Performance Incentives, one of the schemes that was cancelled.

The interim period ended on July 1, at which point the government’s replacement compensation scheme, known as Priority Operating Costs, was launched.
Under POC, development groups must obtain permission to provide civil servants with lump-sum payments for each individual programme they run, according to a separate sub-decree, which outlines two broad levels of pay scales: “national” and “sub-national/public service delivery”.
Draft guidelines by the government’s Council for Administrative Reform stress that “POC payments are not salary or salary supplements”.
Rather, POC payments are “lump-sum payments to public servants who are selected to work in the framework of development cooperation”, the guidelines say. “POC payments will end when the expected results are met, or the development cooperation or programme ends.”
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said that he did not know whether the switch to POC payments had prompted more civil servants to leave their jobs for higher-paid positions with development agencies.
However, he was not overly concerned about warnings raised in the Global Fund audit, provided development work was still being done.
“At the end, everybody works for the nation,” he said. “They have a choice to go wherever is most attractive.
“Everyone who works for the government ... we understand that it’s very low pay.”
Health Ministry officials could not be reached for comment.
Phay Siphan said the government’s 2011 budget included a 20 percent increase in funding for civil servants.

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