AN employee of the Ministry of Health, Chan Touch, aged 43, makes 40,000 riel
per month - enough, she says, to pay for a sack of charcoal and electricity and
water supplies for her house. With no other job, the rest of her living costs
come from money given by her relatives living abroad.
On Feb 7, she -
like everyone else employed by the government - faced a one-day "head-count"
when they were locked inside their ministries.
The move was aimed at
weeding out "ghost" civil servants whose pay was pocketed by others, or who
secretly held two or more jobs with the government.
Touch had no problem
declaring that she was claiming only one salary when asked to fill in an
official questionnaire, but doubted whether the real culprits would confess
As long as government employees were paid hand-to-mouth salaries,
she said, they would always look for alternative ways of making money to survive
and would be hard to identify.
"I don't believe this [head-count] will
have any impact because it happens only one day. It's better to have it every
day," she told the Post while standing behind the fence of her ministry's
premises, waiting for an ice-cream to be passed to her by a vendor.
Penh's government ministries took on a picnic atmosphere during lunchtime on the
day of the head-count, as employees spilled out into their grounds to eat their
food behind locked gates.
Many had taken pre-cooked meals to work that
day, and mothers brought along small children - excluded from the
The workers filled out the questionnaires, after being told
they would not face legal action if they confessed to claiming more than one
salary, but would be charged if they lied.
The paper questioned civil
servants about their name, date of birth, position and any deatils of secondary
The average civil servant salary is about 60,000 riel a month
($23), well below the $100 to $200 estimated monthly minimum basic wage to
support a family.
At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a staff member said
he spent most of his time at a second, well-paying job with a foreign firm,
which he had no intention of declaring.
He said he had received
permission from his foreign boss to miss work that day, so he could be included
in the head-count, but would then return to resume his $550 a month extra
He said he had declared he had only one job in the questionnaire,
because he wasn't sure whether his company would continue to work in Cambodia,
"otherwise I would quit my job [at the Foreign Ministry] for good."
common examples of secondary jobs involve police working as security guards, and
foreign ministry and information ministry employees working as interpreters.
Many teachers work as tutors after hours, and doctors in government hospitals
frequently work in private clinics.
There are 147,000 salaries being paid
to civil servants, according to Ung Tea Seam, the Ministry of Information's
Under-Secretary of State, but how many are pocketed by "ghosts" remains
Finance Minister Keat Chhon suggested in December that as many
as 10,000 bogus civil servants could be nabbed by the head-count.
Seam said the head-count - the results of which would take some time to produce
- would help determine the real number of government employees and remove
"The Royal Government hopes that after the verification and
reduction [of employee numbers] in the next few months, the public
administration will be able to move faster forward."