Prime Minister Hun Sen announced late on Thursday that some $430 million will be handed over to sub-national administrations as part of an effort at decentralisation, while warning officials not to spend the money on personal luxury cars.
In a speech on Koh Pich, the premier urged provincial, district and commune leaders to spend the money building roads, fixing canals and digging wells.
“Please be careful with $430 million that has been sent to the sub-national level . . . Manage and use [the funds] with discretion,” he said.
“Do not ride a horse with no hands, for example. [You have] the spending discretion, but the discretion [should be] used for building the roads and canals, but you use it to buy a car [instead].
“Please do not do it . . . Please somehow spend it properly and effectively.”
Ngann Chamroeun, deputy head of the National Committee for Sub-National Democratic Development Secretariat, said the influx of funds will help to transfer power to lower levels of government. He said the commune level would receive $107 million, $50 million would go to the district and the remaining $273 million would go to provincial governance.
Transparency International Executive Director Preap Kol said it is easy to reach a consensus in Cambodia “that corruption in the Kingdom is both rampant and systematic”.
“For the Government to realise and accept this fact is . . . actually a good starting point for the fight against graft,” he said in an email.
“Rhetoric and warning officials are sometimes necessary but would not be that effective unless concrete measures are put in place such as mechanisms to prevent corruption, oversight expenditures and punish[ing] corrupt officials.”
Hun Sen also called for an “operation monitoring certification committee” to be created to “score” ministries and ministers, warning that “slowpokes” would be weeded out and good performers would be promoted.
“If we do not do that, you just come to sit and listen, and return and do it again and again, not transferring power or doing paperwork or anything,” he said.
San Chey, from social accountability NGO ANSA, welcomed such a system, provided it paired with civil society to improve accountability.
“Role models are something that people want to see,” Chey said.