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Sar Kheng paying traffic cops bonus out of own pocket

A police officer directs traffic in Phnom Penh in 2014. Minister of Interior Sar Kheng has been paying traffic police a daily $1 bonus, ministry officials revealed yesterday.
A police officer directs traffic in Phnom Penh in 2014. Minister of Interior Sar Kheng has been paying traffic police a daily $1 bonus, ministry officials revealed yesterday. Vireak Mai

Sar Kheng paying traffic cops bonus out of own pocket

Interior Minister Sar Kheng has been paying traffic officers daily bonuses directly from his own pocket since January 1, information he revealed on Friday at a ministerial meeting on the transparent disbursement of traffic fine revenue, officials said yesterday.

Run Roth Veasna, the director of the public order department at the Ministry of Interior, who was in attendance at the meeting, related the minister’s words in an interview yesterday.

“Samdech Kralahom [Kheng] contributes 4,000 riel [about $1] per day to nearly 3,500 traffic police. Samdech uses his own money to pay for the expense,” he said.

The amount, when calculated, indicates the minister has dipped into his personal finances in excess of $200,000 since the New Year, which is when Veasna said the payments began, later adding: “I don’t know when it will end. This money is deposited into their bank accounts directly.”

“Samdech thinks being a traffic officer is the most tiring [law enforcement posting], and it is quite hot for them to work. Samdech wants to encourage them,” Veasna said.

According to Veasna, a traffic officer on average earns a baseline of about $200 to $250 per month.

“[Kheng] emphasised that 70 per cent of money collected from the fines should be disbursed with transparency,” Veasna said, referring to the January 1 Traffic Law’s stipulation that 70 per cent of fine revenue be redistributed back to traffic officers. Since the start of the year, some 3 billion riel (about $750,000) in fines has been collected.

Ear Chariya, president of the Road Safety Institute, said yesterday that the minister’s intentions may be benign, but questioned the means. Given the added burden of new road safety rules to enforce under the new law, Chariya said “the government has been trying to . . . motivate the staff to work hard”, adding that “the intention is correct”.

However, there should be a better way to motivate civil servants such as “performance-based incentives”, Chariya continued.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay, who is also deputy head of the National Assembly’s finance commission, felt the minister’s direct payment was an “unfair” practice, and likely unlawful.

“It is quite strange for the Ministry of Interior to be able to share the money from collection of fines, as well as [Kheng] paying them a bonus for their daily work,” he said.

Transparency International Cambodia director Preap Kol, said in an email that while higher salaries could lead to better performance and reduce corruption, there may be better ways of achieving that.

“We think it would be best if the additional bonus they receive come from the state budget rather than from a personal bank account of high ranking officer.”

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