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Audit Authority blames gov't ministries for budget delays

Audit Authority blames gov't ministries for budget delays

The country's highest audit authority said a failure by government ministries to

provide financial information was delaying audits by years, as evidenced by the

National Assembly's approval of the 2002 national budget report in February

2005.

"It is difficult to collect the reports and many government

ministries and institutions send reports late," said Chan Tani, secretary

general of the National Audit Authority (NAA), the body responsible for auditing

the government's finances.

The NAA has not yet submitted reports on the

2003 and 2004 national budgets, said Tani.

The 2002 balance sheet on

state expenditure was submitted to the National Assembly on October 4 last year.

It was due to be discussed by the National Assembly on February 3, but was

dropped from the agenda to make room for a vote on removing the parliamentary

immunity of three Sam Rainsy Party members.

On February 4, the Assembly

lacked a quorum, but approved the 2002 report on February 8.

Since its

founding in 2000 with help from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the NAA has

faced criticism for sloppy and incomplete audits of state finances.

The

ADB has announced it will stop providing technical assistance on 30 September

this year. Tani says he has informally asked the World Bank for assistance but

negotiations were at an early stage, he said. The World Bank was unavailable for

comment.

The NAA is responsible for verifying the Ministry of Economy and

Finance's national budget report, conducting audits of a handful of ministries

and government institutions that it chooses each year and making an inventory of

the assets of each ministry every five years.

But even if the NAA was to

submit more timely reports, there would be little notice taken of them, said

Cheam Yeap, chairman of the National Assembly's finance commission, which takes

the NAA's national budget report and passes it on to the National Assembly.

"Even if the commission examines a report and finds a lack of

transparency or irregularities [the National Assembly] will not punish the

individual responsible," said Yeap.

Despite their apparent lack of power

and the difficulties faced in obtaining information from the government, Tani

insists the NAA should keep trying to assess the accountability of state

spending.

"We are hearing people all over the country complain about the

loss of state property," said Tani. "I dare not make accusations of the loss of

state property but we at least have to oversee and report to the National

Assembly, so we can see what is existing."

Tani said the NAA is forbidden

from releasing any report that may be considered harmful to national security or

damage the reputations of those in powerful positions. To date, the big-spending

ministries such as the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of National Defense

have never been examined by the NAA.

In 2005, the NAA plans to audit the

Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, Ministry of Public

Works and Transport, Phnom Penh Municipal Government, Siem Reap Provincial

Government, the Water Supply Authority of Phnom Penh, and the Sihanoukville

Port.

Last year's reports - covering the Ministry of Economics and

Finance, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International

Cooperation, Ministry of Health, Battambang and Sihanoukville provincial

governments, commune councilors, Civil Aviation Authority and Electricite du

Cambodge - have not yet been submitted to the National Assembly.

In

January, the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MoEF) requested that all

ministries and government institutions submit lists of state assets every five

years to the MoEF that would then be submitted to the NAA for evaluation.

There was no deadline set for these lists of ministerial assets, and it

remains unclear when the five-yearly report will be compiled.

However,

in 2002 a similar exercise was undertaken but the MoEF received only 35 lists

from the 1,053 government ministries and other institutions using state money,

said Tani.

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