Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Donors welcome "non-neutral" auditor

Donors welcome "non-neutral" auditor

Donors welcome "non-neutral" auditor

More than two years after the audit law was passed in March 1999, Cambodia has its

first general director at the National Audit Authority (NAA). The NAA has the task

of overseeing the Kingdom's notoriously corrupt public finances.

The appointments of CPP member Uth Chheurn and two deputies, Funcinpec Senator Sin

Po and the former Minister for Justice Seng Run, were approved by the National Assembly

on July 27. The Assembly had rejected two previous attempts to fill the position.

The Regional Representative of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Urooj Malik, and

the World Bank Country Chief, Bonaventure Mbida-Essama, both welcomed the appointments.

Mbida-Essama told the Post that donors had raised the issue at the donors' meeting

in June and had pressed the government for an appointment for some time. Malik described

the appointments as "a major milestone".

"[The appointment is] in the interests of promoting good governance and sound

public sector management, of curbing corruption and of having accountable procedures

for financial management," said Malik.

However, some opposition MPs criticized the appointments as deliberately political

and said that it was unlikely that corruption would decrease.

"It's just a game to please the donors and it means nothing [in terms of combating]

the rampant corruption in Cambodia," said Sam Rainsy Party MP, Cheam Chancy.

He cited the govern-ment's rejection of the anti-corruption draft law as a clear

indication of the state of governance in Cambodia.

"These three people fear Hun Sen as they would fear a tiger," he said.

Prince Ranariddh, President of the National Assembly, agreed that the appointments

should be apolitical, but said that the appointees should be given time to prove

themselves.

Chheurn, who has a Masters in Economics from a Californian university, rejected the

criticisms. He said: "I have no big position in the CPP. I'm just a simple member."

"Under the law I can be a member [of the CPP], but I cannot hold a high position.

If the law wanted me to be outside the party then I would respect that," he

added.

In April the ADB published a review of governance issues in South-East Asia that

recommended donors support the NAA "provided that a neutral, apolitical auditor

general is appointed".

Following the appointment, however, Malik said that it was up to the government to

select the auditor.

"Ideally one would have liked a non-partisan appointment, but we must realize

the context in Cambodia. The fact that we have an auditor-general is a huge step

[and] we are more interested in the implementation of audit law and the independence

of the audit law. How Chheurn delivers on that [rather than his political affiliation]

should be at the forefront," Malik said.

The first phase of the ADB's $600,000 funding for the development of an audit law

is drawing to a close and, according to Malik, a further $1.2 million will be made

available to establish an audit office.

Chheurn said he would like his initial staff to number around 50 people, and added

that he hoped to secure funding from the World Bank and confirm the ADB funding.

"The most important thing is that we get high quality staff and give them good

training," he said.

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