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Test-free driver’s licences land officials in hot water

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Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol checks a driving licence in Phnom Penh's Russey Keo district in 2019. Heng Chivoan

Test-free driver’s licences land officials in hot water

A top transport official in Svay Rieng province was forced into early retirement while some others faced disciplinary measures for issuing driver’s licences to people who had not taken the required driving test.

The disciplinary measures taken by Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol came after the Svay Rieng Provincial Administration set up a council in July to investigate the corruption cases.

The officials were referred to Chanthol last month after it was determined that they were guilty of professional misconduct.

The ministry then issued a statement on September 2 stating that Prum Pho – director of the provincial transport department and also chairman of the province’s driving licence committee – had agreed to retire from the civil service effective September 1.

“[Pho] must appear at the National Social Security Fund for civil servants or the National Social Security Fund Office for civil servants in Svay Rieng province to update their thumb prints in order to receive a monthly pension from September 1 onwards,” the statement said.

In addition to Pho, 10 other transport officials in the province who served on the driving licence committee were given first and second degree disciplinary punishments because they were either involved in committing the offence directly or were being held responsible for what occurred indirectly because their negligence towards their duties allowed it to take place.

Svay Rieng provincial deputy governor Euk Sovan Phearak, who was charged with investigating the case, told The Post on September 2 that the officials were guilty of issuing driver’s licences to people improperly by allowing them to skip the driving test.

“They are especially at fault because they are specialists in this area with knowledge and technical skills related to the procedures for issuing driver’s licences, so they of all people should be able to appreciate the serious nature of their offences,” she said.

Pech Pisey, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said the decision was appropriate.

However, he said that to enforce the laws effectively in this area he suggested that anyone holding public office be required to follow proper legal and regulatory frameworks and these should be strengthened and ideally all disciplinary actions would be subject to review by an independent oversight body to ensure that the laws are equally applied and to build public trust.

“Moreover, the public would like to see a civil service that is effective and free from corruption in its administration. In order to achieve this, it is fundamental that the government and ministries take a systematic approach to combating corruption,” he said.

Pisey said that if Cambodia rid itself of corruption the nation would see a huge increase in international investments that would create countless jobs and give a big boost to tax revenues.

“With less corruption we might see the creation of jobs in entirely new industries that have zero presence in Cambodia currently,” he said.

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