Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday outlined the role of the newly christened Ministry of Public Function, explaining that the body would oversee the reform of the Kingdom’s civil service, including the salaries of its employees – a major plank in the opposition’s campaign platform.
As a part of a more than six-hour address, the premier promised that the new ministry would increase the Cambodian bureaucracy’s efficiency by making it prompter, easier to deal with and more receptive to criticism from both citizens and the media, though the opposition maintained yesterday that anything less than a cultural shift in government was unlikely to yield results.
At times consulting with new Minister of Public Function Pich Bunthin, Hun Sen mandated that civil servants be promoted every three years, describing as untenable the current system in which bureaucrats sometimes languish in low-level positions indefinitely.
“Some are at the A1 level for 13 years and have not been promoted,” he said. “Some have retired but were not promoted.”
Raising bureaucrats’ pay – an issue that the Cambodia National Rescue Party pushed hard in the build-up to the July elections – also took a place of prominence in the remarks on the new ministry. Without offering details, Hun Sen said that salary reform would take place from 2015 to 2018, and that the government was experimenting with direct-deposit payment schemes intended to improve transparency and prevent kickbacks demanded by supervisors.
Despite the opposition’s vocal support of civil servant reforms and salary increases, CNRP chief whip Son Chhay said yesterday that the new ministry was “a waste of time and state money, because it is not going to work”.
“All the institutions [here] are so weak, and only a few people have centralised power in themselves,” he said. “Any new institution that is created doesn’t have the power or ability to perform.”