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Corruption unchecked

Corruption unchecked

The release of the annual Corruption Perception Index from Transparency International yesterday left the Kingdom in a familiar position – low and lacking upward momentum.

The report, which ranks 183 countries across a broad range of categories including bribery, kickbacks and the effectiveness of anti-corruption efforts in the public sector, saw Cambodia finish with a score of 2.1 out of 10, the same score attained in last year’s CPI.

Its ranking relative to the other countries on the list, meanwhile, slid 10 places – from 154 to 164 – though that was influenced to a large degree by the addition of five new countries .

Climbing up the list – the Kingdom is still looking up at Zimbabwe and neighbouring Laos among others – will require the fledgling Anticorruption Unit to take the lead role in battling public sector corruption, a representative from Transparency International said yesterday.

“The ACU is undertaking the most difficult job compared to the other institutions of the government,” said TI country representative Preap Kol, who credited the ACU for investigating high-profile corruption cases and addressing “facilitation fees” charged by officials in exchange for public services.

“It’s very new, so it needs some time to strengthen their capacity,” he said.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said he was unsurprised the perception of corruption in Cambodia remained the same.

“Corruption is so widespread . . . [and] there are so many people considered to be untouchable, that I think it’s going to very difficult, even if there’s some political will, and I think the ACU hasn’t passed the test yet,” he said, conceding that the ACU’s performance has been hampered by a lack of resources.

The Anticorruption Unit was established following the passage of the Anticorruption Law in March of last year.

At a meeting in the capital last month, ACU head Om Yentieng announced that ministries must submit a set list of charges for public services to Prime Minister Hun Sen for approval to avoid allegations of bribery and corruption, after showing that all ministries were in some way overcharging for services.

Om Yentieng also said the ACU had been overwhelmed with complaints and lacked resources to adequately investigate them.

ACU spokesman Keo Remy was not available for comment yesterday. However, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said there was “no specific formula” for identifying corruption and the ACU and the anticorruption law had helped to reduce corruption.

“We have arrested many corrupt officials, including high-ranking officials, to put in jail,” he said. “We are not tolerant [of corruption] anymore.”

Preap Kol said TI’s Corruption Barometer released last year showed Cambodians identified the judiciary as the most corrupt institution, followed by the police and public officials.

The CPI used 17 data sources from 13 institutions, including the World Bank and the ADB, to rank peoples’ perceptions of public sector corruption.

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