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Minister of Information calls on staff to identify ‘ghost officials’

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Khieu Kanharith on Tuesday called on officials at his ministry to send names and pictures of “ghost officials” to him. Heng Chivoan

Minister of Information calls on staff to identify ‘ghost officials’

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith on Tuesday called on officials at his ministry to send names and pictures of “ghost officials” to him and he would post them on Facebook as a means of punishment.

“As there have been complaints from officials at the Ministry of Information, the ministry requests all departments to send the names and pictures of officials who are at work in name only but receive a salary. To contribute to good governance, I will post photos of those who exploit the ministry,” he wrote on Facebook.

Ministry spokesperson Phos Sovann on Tuesday said that while there could be certain instances of “ghost workers” as the minister had mentioned, they may be only a handful.

He said work at the Ministry of Information was different from the private sector and in other institutions where the presence of staff was required.

“Some staff come to the workplace every day but they are not really active. But others, even though they are not present at the workplace, work a lot from a distance."

“There could be a few cases like this due to our loose regulations. Some could forget to put in their [time] cards or submit the results of their work to the ministry. If this happens, the ministry requires them to correct themselves or they may face punishment,” Sovann said.

He said the minister’s comments may have come after ministry officials complained on social media about the behaviour of certain colleagues.

“In my view, the information sector is not like others such as schools or private companies where staff have to be present. Some [in the information sector], if they come to the workplace, they could be late in getting to events,” Sovann said.

Preap Kol, the executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, called officials as described by Kanharith “lazy staff” who did not fulfil their duties.

He said posting the names and pictures of such staff to shame them was one measure that could be taken.

“However, the most effective and professional measure would be to put strict conditions on staff, such as set working times, establishing mechanisms to assess their efficiency and bringing in results-based assessments with work reports as proof,” he said.

Affiliated Network for Social Accountability executive director San Chey said on Tuesday that Kanharith’s comments came as Cambodians were enjoying a series of public holidays.

He said it was also possible that some officials had duties to perform in provinces or that the ministry might have experienced power cuts as the general public had.

He said posting the names and pictures of those officials on social media was a serious punishment. Existing administrative regulations should be first applied, he said.

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