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Access to budget information remains low, says Transparency

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Prime Minister Hun Sen meets with cabinet ministers for a national budget meeting at the Peace Palace in 2013. Transparency Cambodia released a survery showing access to budget information remains low. Photo supplied

Access to budget information remains low, says Transparency

Transparency Cambodia on Thursday released a national survey report, Accountability and Transparency of Budget Processes, which shows that Cambodians’ access to information about national and sub-national budget distibution remians at a low level.

The survey, which was conducted nationwide in October last year, aimed to explore citizens’ “perceptions and attitudes” towards the government’s budgets and budget-related issues in Cambodia, with the findings highlighting serious concerns regarding the the topic.

Among nearly 1,600 participants in 200 villages around the country, only 0.3 percent could give correct answers when asked about the size of the national budget in 2017.

Additionally, 33.4 percent of respondents didn’t know where the budget comes from, while 46.4 percent didn’t know how the budget was used.

Participants’ overall level of undertstanding about budget distirbution at the commune/sangkat levels is lower than that of the national level, with 37.5 percent of the participants knowing who are mainly responsible for managing commune/sangkat budgets.

Almost none of the participants (0.1 percent) said they had seen official documents from the government on the national spending, while only 1.1 percent said they had sought out those documents.

Public accessibility

At the commune level, more than 90 percent of the participants said they had never received or sought any information about the budget from local officials.

However, almost all of them (98.5 percent) believed that information about the budgets should be more accessible to the public.

Preap Kol, executive director of TI Cambodia, said the findings are evidence that governmental and non-governmental organisations, as well as development partners, need to look deeper into citizens’ perceptions of and attitudes toward public finance management.

“This knowledge, in turn, can help them in the formulation or reform of policies and programs to increase budget transparency and accountability,” Kol said.

Neither Cheam Yeab, chair of the National Assembly’s Banking and Finance Commission, or Rainsey Visoth, Ministry of Economy spokesperson, could be contacted for comment.

Sorn Chey, executive director of the Cambodia-based Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific, said he supported the report as Cambodian people still do not understand the importance of gaining access to information about national and subnational finance, giving the chance for corrupt government officials to take bribes or embezzle money.

“People do not ask much about it because they think that only . . . village or commune chiefs, are responsible for the budget,” he said. “Meanwhile, the authorities or officials do not give them that information.”

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