Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Audit authority to finalize reports on budget, ministries

Audit authority to finalize reports on budget, ministries

Audit authority to finalize reports on budget, ministries

The 2003 audit of some government ministries and institutions will be sent to the

National Assembly once the body officially convenes, said Chan Tani, secretary general

of the National Audit Authority (NAA). An examination of Ministry of Economic and

Finance's (MEF) 2002 budget is also on the agenda.

Tani said the NAA had nearly completed audits of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries

and Forestry, the customs office in Sihanoukville and Poipet, the Ministry of Rural

Development and the Electricity Authority of Cambodia.

"Some reports we found had irregularities, but we still give time to individual

government institutions to check our report before sending to the National Assembly,"

said Tani.

All findings from the NAA and specific ministries would be included in a final submission

to the National Assembly, he said. Tani declined to elaborate on the findings before

the debate before the legislature.

The donor-approved watchdog has operated since 2001. The NAA is intended to promote

good governance through financial accountability of the government. As part of its

mission, it regularly evaluates the government's financial performance and reports

back to the National Assembly. However, it has been widely criticized in the past

for sloppy and incomplete audits of state finances.

Tani said that while the NAA is authorized to oversee government institutions and

ministries, the body often encounters difficulties in obtaining financial records,

especially from MEF.

"Auditing is a new concept for Cambodia and some officials at the government's

institutions worry about our findings," said Tani. "We are not trying to

pick out mistakes of the government, but we want to improve the accountability about

the national income and expenditure in order to bring the budget under control."

In the past, Minister of MEF, Keat Chhon acknowledged that the government loses as

much as $100 million per year due to corruption.

The opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) has long criticized the government for graft

and the liquidation of public assets.

The Alliance of Democrats, the political union between Funcinpec and SRP, wrote on

December 22 that such corruption squandered vast benefits from Cambodia's inland

fisheries.

The joint-statement wrote that while the country's fisheries are estimated to be

worth $500 million annually by Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT), the state

budget only registered an income from the sector of $5 million in 2003.

Keo Remy, opposition lawmaker from SRP, criticized the NAA as a way of legitimizing

corrupt finances under the control of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP).

The head of the NAA, auditor-general Uth Chhorn, is from the CPP and both his two

deputies are from Funcinpec.

"I think that the CPP established the National Audit Authority to hide the corrupt

activity committed by CPP ministries and institutions after donor countries appealed

for reduction of corruption," said Remy.

However, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has supported NAA from its inception by

providing technical assistance for the government's attempt to improve transparency

and the accountability of public finance.

Urooj Malik, ADB country director head, told the Post on December 15 that he approved

of the NAA's progress thus far.

"We were satisfied with the way progress has been made and the capacity that

has been built," said Urooj.

Tani said that for 2004, the NAA plans to audit the Ministries of Foreign Affairs,

Public Works and Transport, Health and Education. It will also look at balance sheets

from the 2003 national budget, the National Authority of Civil Aviation, Phnom Penh

Water authority, Sihanoukville port, National Institute of Management and private

companies that received concessions from the state. Those reports will be completed

within a year, he said.

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