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Methods, accuracy of TI’s 2021 corruption rankings called into question by officials

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Transparency International Cambodia holds a press conference on their 2021 corruption rankings in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. Hean Rangsey

Methods, accuracy of TI’s 2021 corruption rankings called into question by officials

Government spokesman Phay Siphan on January 25 responded to Transparency International’s (TI) recently updated Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), saying Cambodia’s low score does not reflect the truth of the matter and pointing out the government’s efforts in implementing reforms that improve transparency and fight corruption.

The Berlin-based TI released its latest corruption index for 2021 earlier that day which gave Cambodia a score of 23 out of 100, marking a two point increase over its 2020 score of 21, and ranked the Kingdom 157th out of the 180 countries surveyed.

Denmark, Finland and New Zealand remain at the top of the CPI, while South Sudan, Syria and Somalia bottom out the overall rankings.

“Cambodia is ranked as the country with the third lowest score in Asia and the Pacific – only placing above Afghanistan and North Korea – and it has the lowest score in ASEAN,” TI said in a statement.

Pech Pisey, TI Cambodia’s executive director, said Cambodia has made some positive progress on reforms in the business sector, having achieved some reduction in corruption and improvements in public services in recent years.

He applauded the government’s efforts in the areas of public health support and in reducing the socio-economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pisey said the increase in CPI score reflects the country’s ongoing commitment to improving public financial management, fiscal transparency, resources mobilisation, public administration reform, promotion of e-government and the management of Covid-19.

“However, the low CPI score indicates that governance in general and public institutions in particular continue to be heavily compromised, while grand corruption remains among Cambodia’s biggest challenges.

“Greater political will and bolder efforts are therefore sorely needed in order to improve this situation,” Pisey said, without pointing to any specific cases of corruption.

TI Cambodia provided the government with recommendations: Civil rights and the rights of individuals must be upheld, powerful people must be held to account for wrongdoing, institutional checks on power must be restored and strengthened, and anti-corruption laws must be amended or adopted which meet international standards, among other suggestions.

Siphan said TI’s CPI scoring and index did not reflect reality and ignored the government’s ongoing efforts in combating corruption.

“I don’t know how to judge the legitimacy of this report because we don’t know their methodology or the criteria they’ve used for evaluations. To be transparent themselves, they should explain their methods and our Anti-Corruption Unit and other officials in charge of government oversight can take that into account.

“[TI] may not know that Cambodia has a social accountability programme at the sub-national level to combat corruption. I think it’s likely that they don’t have a clear understanding of Cambodia,” he said.

Siphan continued that the government had enacted laws and increased its level of cooperation with the international community in working on this issue and had also set up anti-corruption offices for different regions.

He pointed out that in addition to the anti-corruption laws already in place, Cambodia is undergoing modernisation reforms that will speed up the ability of both the government and ordinary citizens to access public information regarding things like land titles, which will be another important tool for fighting corruption.

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