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In bribery, knowledge is power, says paper

Sophal Ear, a Cambodian-American political scientist and author of Combating Corruption in Cambodia, suggests publishing information on bribes could force bribe-takers to compete, effectively reducing corruption.
Sophal Ear, a Cambodian-American political scientist and author of Combating Corruption in Cambodia, suggests publishing information on bribes could force bribe-takers to compete, effectively reducing corruption. Pha Lina

In bribery, knowledge is power, says paper

A Cambodian-American political scientist has proposed a novel way to tackle corruption in the Kingdom: force bribe-taking bureaucrats to compete with each other.

In a paper published on Sunday titled Combating Corruption in Cambodia, academic Sophal Ear said crowd-sourcing the going rate for various services would give citizens a reference point when negotiating bribes.

“Publicising bribe taxes could reduce them by virtue of competition between the bribe takers,” wrote Ear. “If a person knows the cost of getting a passport with bribes is US$120, why would he pay US$135?”

However, Transparency International Cambodia (TIC) executive director Preap Kol warned in an email yesterday that Ear’s proposed project could face difficulties on two fronts.

“Firstly, people do not believe they can make a difference by publicising such information and, secondly, they are afraid to do so.”

TIC attempted a similar crowd-sourced scheme, Bribespot, in 2014, but after 12 months had received just 40 bribe reports.

Ear acknowledged in the paper that the public sector’s endemic corruption was intertwined with its measly pay cheques, driving many to supplement their earnings through graft.

The solution, he wrote, was to sack the civil service’s “ghost workers” – employees on the payroll who don’t show up to work. Ear said vanquishing these could free up enough cash to more than double public sector pay.

A 2011 government audit found 4,000 such phantoms in the public sector, but a bureaucrat told the Post in 2014 he believed as many as two-thirds of Cambodia’s 190,000 civil servants were absentee.

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