Prime Minister Hun Sen said the use of digital data management systems in the government – or E-Governance – will help fight potential corruption in the civil service, especially the monitoring of “ghost” officials.

While addressing nearly 7,000 students at a January 23 graduation ceremony, Hun Sen said data management systems would increase speed and security, especially in the fight against corruption. He cited the implementation of a digital salary payment system as an excellent example, explaining that it had identified “ghost” civil servants, positions that were in fact not staffed.

“When we implemented the system, we discovered tens of thousands of these salaries were being paid. In some cases, one person held up to three full-time positions, often using a different name at each,” he added.

Pech Pisey, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, echoed Hun Sen’s sentiments, saying digital technology was a valuable tool in the fight against corruption.

“Ideally, every government institution should employ digital data management, especially for financial transactions,” he said.

Regarding the issue of ghost officials, Pisey agreed that there had been a notable reduction in such posts, but suggested the government continue to analyse the data and use it to determine the number of officials who were actually performing their assigned tasks.

He added that in order to reduce inefficient spending on the salaries of civil servants, the government should monitor the efficiency of officials. If any are found to be self-employed or working for private companies during their official hours, they should be reprimanded or dismissed. Conversely, active civil servants should be rewarded.

Cambodia Reform Party co-founder Ou Chanrath also supported Hun Sen’s move to improve the management of state institutions.

“I support the use of digital systems to fight the Kingdom’s chronic corruption. Although implementing these systems may require hiring more qualified staff, I believe it is an excellent step,” he said.

He added that the government should consider using examples from other countries in the fight against corruption in the civil service, perhaps through the introduction of a code of conduct, or by streamlining the process of reporting allegations of corruption.

In late December, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport announced the replacement of the identity cards of civil servants with smart cards. The new cards will function as an ID card and an ATM card, increasing the ability of central government to monitor its officials. The move was widely praised by civil society, who said it would reduce instances of bribery and corruption.