By January 31, the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) had received a total of 22,645 declarations of assets and liabilities from government officials – across all ministries and provincial administrations – as part of its biennial monitoring process. The declaration period was announced in October last year.
Niv Panharith, chief of the ACU’s assets and liabilities declaration department, said on January 31 that it was the final day declarations were due. Officials accepted declarations until 12pm.
“Failure to declare assets and liabilities will result in legal action,” he added.
The ACU did not release the number of declarations that remained outstanding.
Yang Kim Eng, president of the People Center for Development and Peace, said the declarations were a necessary measure for the ACU to monitor the performance of officials in the civil service. If their living standards or assets seem abnormal, this could lead to an investigation.
“The declaration of assets and liabilities is an important part of combating corruption. When officials are obliged to declare their assets, it makes it much more difficult for them to embezzle funds or accept bribes. If the assets of any official seem unusually high, he or she may be placed under investigation,” he added.
Kim Eng urged the government to continue working to combat corruption, although he expected it would take years to resolve the issue.
“Cambodia needs to develop both long and short-term anti-corruption mechanisms. It should encourage whistleblowers to report on corruption, and have laws that will protect them – perhaps even incentives,” he said.
He wanted the government to improve the transparency of the bidding process for state development projects, and to be open and transparent about the revenue and expenditure of all state institutions.
Soeng Sen Karuna, spokesman for rights group Adhoc, understands that the declaration of assets and liabilities was only one facet of the ACU’s anti-corruption procedures. He suggested that the government focus on monitoring the standard practices of civil servants, especially senior government officials. He also saw a lack of transparency in the declaration of assets.
He added that the Cambodian government should act on the reports and recommendations made by national and international civil society organisations on loopholes that can lead to chronic corruption.
“If the Kingdom can solve this problem, it will lead to the conservation of countless natural resources, and no more of the state’s revenue will be pocketed by unscrupulous officials,” he continued.
Cambodia was ranked 150th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index. The ranking marked an improvement over the previous year, when the Kingdom ranked 157th.