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Officials refute graft report

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Pech Pisey (right) defended the ‘high integrity of the survey. TI Cambodia

Officials refute graft report

Senior government officials have disputed the results of a Transparency International (TI) survey that measured corruption in Cambodia, saying it failed to reflect the realities.

On November 24, TI Cambodia released a report on its 2020 global Corruption Perceptions Index which reflected the views and experiences of people concerning corruption in 17 countries in Asia, including Cambodia.

The Cambodian survey was conducted by TI Cambodia which claimed the Kingdom is still mired in corruption and bribery, as were the 16 other countries in Asia surveyed by TI.

Cambodia fared poorly and was in 16th place, just ahead of India which was considered the most corrupt of all the Asian countries surveyed.

But the findings also suggested that corruption and bribery in Cambodia had decreased from 40 per cent in 2016 to 37 per cent this year.

The TI Cambodia report – which is based on a survey of 1,000 Cambodians and the international survey which polled some 20,000 people in Asia – said corruption across the region had generally increased over the last 12 months.

TI said corruption had impacted public services and trust in Asian governments.

The report said Cambodians still faced corruption when using some public services, with 89 per cent claiming corruption among police officials and 72 per cent claiming corruption in the justice system and among government officials.

“Some 37 per cent of interviewees said they had to offer bribes in the past 12 months to receive public services.

“Among the respondents, 40 per cent said they offered bribes to obtain documents certifying identities while 38 per cent said they bribed the police in general,” the report said.

However, Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin told The Post on Wednesday that the result of the findings could not be taken seriously as it did not reflect the actual situation in Cambodia.

“The report and the results of this survey cannot be taken as the basis to resolve problems in Cambodia. This is because an anonymous group of people were asked questions and we don’t know what their political leanings are.

“Where are they from and how did they learn about corrupt practices and the elements of corruption?” he asked.

Malin urged TI Cambodia to provide a clear basis for its claims of corruption. He also wanted more specific information on the alleged offences that were committed so that the relevant institutions can investigate them. That would be good, he said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan echoed Malin and called the report dishonest and one that did not correspond to the realities in Cambodia.

“If we look at the government’s achievements, it is already being recognised for combating corruption. The Anti-Corruption Unit is doing its job.

“At the same time, any personal use of money and decisions were made with transparency and always checked by the Anti-Corruption Unit,” he said.

TI Cambodia executive director Pech Pisey said the survey this time was conducted over the phone. The survey was different from before when people were interviewed directly.

He further said the report was made independently by TI and that it can still be taken as a basis to eliminate corruption in Cambodia.

“This study provides very high integrity in ensuring that questionnaires and questioning are highly specific. The study is the least biased. I encourage the ministry [of interior] to check on the information in detail as they represent opinions expressed by the people,” he said.

Pisey said while Cambodia is experiencing a Covid-19 outbreak, partial withdrawal of the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme and economic setbacks, a reduction of corruption in the public sector is the most necessary.

On the positive side, the TI report said corruption and bribery in Cambodia this year had decreased compared to its three previous surveys.

In 2013, the percentage of corruption in Cambodia was 57 per cent, in 2016 it was 40 per cent and this year it fell again to 37 per cent.

The report noted that the people still feared providing information on corruption since only 2.5 per cent of those who paid bribes to obtain public services reported such corruption.

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