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Government shies away from convention against corruption

Government shies away from convention against corruption

The government refuses to be held to an anti-corruption law that complies with UN

conventions but the donor community remains unconcerned.

The passing of the anti-corruption law was one of the key benchmarks on the table

at the donor-government Consultative Group (CG) meeting on December 6 and 7 last

year, where $504 million of aid was pledged for 2005.

The Post only obtained the CG benchmarks on January 27, after repeated requests to

the World Bank, UN and government.

At the CG meeting donors warned that future aid hinged on the government making good

on its promises for reform and development.

The anti-corruption law has been a sticking point because the government will only

agree to legislation that complies with "international best practice",

but not specifically with the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

"They [the government] agreed that it should be according to some international

best practice but they didn't want to agree that it should be in line with the UN

convention without having read it," said Nisha Agrawal, country manager of the

World Bank in Cambodia.

The words "pending agreement on wording" were added to the benchmark during

the CG meeting and the two parties have not met to discuss the issue since then.

It was hoped that outstanding issues from the CG would be resolved by December, said

Agrawal, but with many people away over the holiday period, there had been no progress.

"We are not negotiating anything - I mean this was the outcome of the CG and

it was agreed then that everyone would go and do their work and we would have the

next meeting [on March 7]," said Agrawal.

"What is very important is that they do [the anti-corruption law] according

to international best practice and that is agreed on - that to me is the main thing,"

said Agrawal.

But the opposition Sam Rainsy Party said the anti-corruption law should comply with

the UN-recognized levels.

"The anti-coruption law should be in compliance with the United Nation convention

for anti-corruption," said Ung Bun Ang, spokesman for the opposition.

"We would like Cambodia to have at least that kind of standard," said Bun

Ang.

The passing of an anti-corruption law was one of three indicators that the government

was fighting corruption and increasing accountability.

Also included was the need to bring reported cases of graft before the courts and

to start preparation work on a freedom of information mechanism to allow the people

to access to information held by public authorities.

The other benchmarks set for 2005 are a mix of new requirements and those not met

in previous years, including the passing of many laws, the phasing out of donor-provided

salary supplements for civil servants, and the full disclosure of controversial land

concessions.

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