THE opposition Sam Rainsy Party has accused Nguon Nhel, the first deputy president of the National Assembly, of employing 71 advisers, and urged National Assembly President Heng Samrin to investigate this “irregularity”.
In a letter dated Friday, 13 SRP lawmakers alleged that Nguon Nhel’s army of advisers was costing the government 112 million riels (US$26,730) per month, roughly $320,760 annually.
“The Royal Government always discusses the lack of budget for the salaries of civil servants and the armed forces, so we would like Samdech Assembly President to explain the large expenses of His Excellency the deputy president,” the letter said.
Nguon Nhel could not be reached for comment yesterday. However, Cheam Yeap, chief of the National Assembly’s Finance and Banking Committee, defended Nguon Nhel’s need for an armada of aides.
“This serves the interest of the nation and helps [Nguon Nhel] lead the legislature,” Cheam Yeap said. “It allows our leaders to get intelligent and expert advice.”
The allegations come as the government pushes forward with a campaign of self-described public administration reform. According to a September circular from the Council of Ministers, government promotions and salary raises have been suspended for this year on orders from Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The premier also called for the number of contracted and temporary staffers in the government to be halved, though he granted exceptions for the health and education sectors.
In September of last year, an International Monetary Fund mission to Cambodia warned that increased spending and “very large increases in the civil service and military wage bill” were running up the Kingdom’s deficit to unsustainable levels.
“The mission cautioned against allowing significant increases in the wage bill to become entrenched, as this could risk crowding out spending on priority sectors such as health, education, and operations and maintenance,” the IMF said at the time.