Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Deadline for asset declaration looms

Deadline for asset declaration looms

Deadline for asset declaration looms

Ten days before the deadline closes on the Anti-Corruption Unit’s much-criticised asset declaration process, Prime Minister Hun Sen urged officials to submit their confidential list of holdings.

Speaking at a land-title distribution ceremony in Stung Treng province, Hun Sen said he had already declared his assets and called on others to follow suit.

“All officials please go to declare your properties, because I had declared my properties already. Only 10 days more. Please go quickly,” said Hun Sen.

Due January 31, the second round of declaration has come under fire for its lack of transparency. The law – which requires government employees ranging from low-ranking civil servants to the country’s most powerful officials to submit to the ACU sealed envelopes listing their assets – is ostensibly intended to allow the government ferret out corruption. But it has come under fire repeatedly for what critics call gaping loopholes. Assets under the names of spouses, for instance, do not have to be disclosed; cash holdings do not have to be disclosed and the contents of the envelopes are not publicly available.

As of Sunday, said Hun Sen, 62 per cent of the Kingdom’s approximately 23,000 officials had declared their property.

“Only 10 days more, everyone. The laws state [you have] only to January 31, so when you go back home, from day to night, work without weekends [to finish].”

Should officials fail to make the end-of-month deadlines, warned Hun Sen, legal action would be taken against them.

The first property and debt declaration was made in 2011. That same year, Cambodia ranked 164 of 183 countries in Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index. A year later, its standing was virtually unchanged: ranked 157 of 176 countries.

Social and economic researcher Kem Ley said it was commendable the government had taken steps to reduce corruption, but called the process in its current form incomplete.

“It should be declared publicly to know each person’s properties,” said Ley.

On December 9, 2012, Mr. Om Yentieng, president of ACU, said during Anti-Corruption Day that 2013 is the year to fight the corruption.

According to USAID estimates, Cambodia loses $300 million to $500 million annually to corruption.