Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Tuesday that the government had cut “tens of thousands” of dummy names from the armed forces payroll as part of a major administrative overhaul.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said “ghost soldiers”, which were common during the American-backed Lon Nol regime, also exist in his government, along with “ghost officials”.
“Every country has ghost soldiers and officials, and ours is no exception. We discovered them during the administrative and financial reforms which require government officials to receive their salaries through the banking system,” he said.
The prime minister praised the reforms that have already been carried out and saw “tens of thousands” of fake names struck off. He vowed to carry on with such action.
“The ‘ghosts’ do not carry their bank book and go to the bank, so striking them off saves a lot from the national budget.
“Some of the ‘officials’ held three positions. When caught, they were punished and had to repay the stolen money.”
Meanwhile, Meas Sok Sensan, a spokesman for the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said the government had introduced three financial reforms in its latest term of office.
As a result, all 200,000 of Cambodia’s civil servants now have their salaries deposited into their bank accounts. This solved the problem of cash shortage and late payments.
“There are no longer ghost officials . . . unless they are hidden by their departments. But this would be very difficult as the Ministry of Public Services will definitely not ignore such acts,” Sok Sensan said.
Ministry of Civil Services spokesperson Chouk Mony said the prime minister’s statement is correct, and that the Public Administrative Reform, which began in 2015, had dealt with all irregularities among its officials to strike off the ghosts.
“It is the principle of the Ministry of Civil Services to identify and remove ghost officials. [Ghost officials] no longer exist anymore, and an official can only be paid for the one position he or she holds,” he said.
However, the spokesperson refused to reveal the amount of money that had been saved through the reforms.
The executive director of the Cambodia-based Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific, San Chey, said more reforms were needed. “The government’s vehicle and mileage allowances are broadly used for personal purposes. Recruitments and promotions through nepotism should also be abolished,” he said.