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Cintri workers shovel rubbish into a garbage truck in central Phnom Penh.
Cintri workers shovel rubbish into a garbage truck in central Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Trash pact in crosshairs

City Hall has warned Phnom Penh’s sole waste management firm that it has just one more opportunity to lift its game before its oft-criticised contract comes under threat.

Following a meeting on Tuesday between Cintri and local authorities to review the firm’s performance, Ieng Aunny, deputy Phnom Penh governor in charge of waste management, said the garbage collection company was not cleaning up the streets on time, lacked the proper equipment and were not properly organised.

“City Hall will give Cintri one more chance, and if they cannot meet what we need, then we will not continue the contract with Cintri anymore,” he said.

The firm will soon be answerable to district governors, whose constituencies have grown tired of what they consider to be poor service, Aunny said. Should Cintri not improve, district heads would then be able to consider using other companies to pick up the trash, he added.

Cintri has had a monopoly on the capital’s waste-collection services since it signed a 47-year contract with the government in 2002. It was not immediately apparent how the city would be able to extricate itself from the long-term pact, and officials declined to go into details of the process yesterday.

The government announced last February that it would be completing a review of the contract, which has never been made public.

Aunny yesterday commended the firm for putting its hand up 15 years ago, at a time when others wouldn’t, but said it had not kept up with standards required today. He did not say how long the firm would have to prove its worth or how this would be measured.

A woman covers her mouth as she walks past a mound of rubbish in central Phnom Penh last year.
A woman covers her mouth as she walks past a mound of rubbish in central Phnom Penh last year. Pha Lina

According to City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche, monthly dues for garbage collection, currently paid to Electricite du Cambodge, would soon be paid directly to local authorities, giving more power to district governors when negotiating service standards with Cintri.

“Soon, each district governor will have to observe the work that staff from Cintri have done,” he said.

The spokesman said this policy would first be implemented in Chamkarmon, Daun Penh, Tuol Kork and Prampi Makara districts, but said a date for this to occur had not yet been confirmed.

While accepting that his company had room to improve, Ith Chanda, chief of Cintri’s waste collection office and an attendee at Tuesday’s meeting, said blame for the problems should be shared with households that were not properly disposing of their rubbish.

“Sometimes people don’t throw their trash in the trash bin that is given to them by Cintri, they just throw it anywhere, and it makes it hard for us to collect it.”

Jon Morales, former programme manager for the Asia Foundation’s urban services department in Cambodia, said yesterday that shifting responsibility for private waste management contracts to district governors should mean better services for people over time.

“The move towards district ownership of regulation is a positive structural move for the city. It should lead to better responsiveness to customer and municipal needs,” he said.

Opening up the market for new entrants, he added, would also in time lead to cleaner streets. “I think providing the opportunity for increased competition on a regular basis is a strong incentive for private sector performance.”

Meanwhile, City Hall said yesterday that it would soon start a programme to pay homeless people to pick up rubbish in the capital and deposit it in mobile bins.

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