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United district set to start next year

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An official hoists the Cambodian flag in front of Koh Andet District Hall in Takeo province. Photo supplied

United district set to start next year

A “united administrative district” would start functioning next year as part of administrative reforms to cut costs and make the delivery of public services more efficient and effective.

The executive deputy head of the National Committee for Sub-National Democratic Development Secretariat (NCDDS) Ngan Chamroeun said the reform came after over a year of study conducted by three reform committees – public finance management, public administration, and the NCDDS itself.

He said the study found that many current structures at district level were “inactive”.

“The inactivity was mainly in terms of communications which made it unable to fit in the system that we want, which is a ‘united administration’,” he said.

Chamroeun said between 10 and 20 officials at district level did not have work to fulfil. They were under the management line of their respective departments and ministers. However some other district-level offices lacked human resources, he said.

“Except for a few offices like education and health, which have enough staff and are active with ample resources to perform their functions to serve the people, other sectors have less staff and remain inactive with lack of budget."

“So, their work seems ineffective and the management was under ministers which made it too cumbersome to monitor and manage,” Chamroeun said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen last week agreed to merge the offices of different ministries at town and district levels to be under the management of town and district councils, except for health and education and land management.

He said some state entities that were not necessary had to be dissolved while some offices, including those of agriculture, water resources and rural development had to be shifted to a single venue to serve the people better.

Hun Sen’s decision came following a request from Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng who requested those offices to be under the town or district management.

In the two-page document, Sar Kheng requested Hun Sen’s endorsement on seven points, including removal of technical offices at the district level and integrating them to be under the management of the district administration.

This will create a new unit or an office cluster for relevant offices involved in economic and social sectors, among others. The new unit must be promoted to respond in line with the required tasks and responsibilities to improve efficiency.

The NCDD and relevant committees, Chamroeun said, will prepare documents in the first three months of this year so that a new district administrative structure can start functioning next year.

However, he said that there were some challenges in merging the offices. “We need to discuss with each ministry and institution how much budget would be needed and how many staff could be transferred.

“This is because some staff who are under the supervision of ministers don’t want to be under district management, so we have to decide whether to let the districts recruit new personnel,” he said.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Cambodia country director Nick Beresford welcomed the reforms.

“It’s good to see [the Royal Government of Cambodia] trying new ideas and reforms to keep improving effectiveness at the local level. Hopefully, a more streamlined structure can increase efficiency and effectiveness,” he said.

While the government was carrying out district-level reforms, a document had gone viral online on Monday, suggested that some ministries would be merged and some other would be dissolved.

The document claimed that the number of ministries would be reduced to only 16. But Prime Minister Hun Sen immediately rejected the claim and called it “fake news”. He said the spread of fake news was done with the intention to make the public lose trust in the government.

“This document is merely fake and is a bad plan to make [people] distrust officials and the government. Therefore, [I] completely deny/reject this fake document,” he told Fresh News.

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