By: Mou Sochau
As a lawmaker, I wish to commend Daniel de Carteret and Vincent MacIsaac for reporting on the perks paid by the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) to government ministries.
GMAC needs to review its practice of responding to official letters from government ministries soliciting donations. According to the GMAC director general, these official requests “happen all the time from all ministries – bar none” and are supposedly nonpartisan in nature.
What is of a bigger concern is the reported $350 renewal payment by GMAC to a key official of the Ministry of Commerce at a country club owned by the chairman of GMAC. A major role of the Ministry of Commerce is to create opportunities and a good working environment for producers and exporters. My concern goes even further when we learn that GMAC last year accompanied the Ministry of Labour to donate food and uniforms to government soldiers. A key role of the Ministry of Labour is to ensure the implementation of the Labor Law, which includes monitoring working conditions and protecting workers’ rights, as well as protecting the interests of employers.
According to the 2006 study by the Economic Institute of Cambodia, the private sector pays unofficial fees equivalent to about 2.8 per cent of total annual revenue, or $330 million per year. Australia’s biggest mining company, BHP Billiton, is currently in negotiations with the US government to settle allegations of corruption in Cambodia, which includes $2.5 million in “tea money” paid into a “social fund”. No one knows how that fund has been used.
Corruption is endemic in Cambodia, but this does not mean we cannot tackle the challenge. First, let us be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Corporate social responsibility is a new concept in Cambodia, but some companies have made the first step by choosing how and to whom they should contribute to and not feel obliged to comply with government solicitation letters. Learn from some small local businesses that make public these official requests of “monthly social contributions”. This serves as deterrence.
There should be zero tolerance to corruption and it should be tackled at all levels. It is a moral and ethical issue. The private sector must be a key player if it wants to help Cambodia clean up the sector.
The efforts made by Hang Chuon Naron, the new minister of education, to clean up corruption should be acknowledged and supported with real means for him to continue on the right path. He is a good role model that could be used as part of public education about cleaning corruption. The new parliamentary Anti-Corruption Commission headed by the opposition can serve as oversight to the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit, which needs to demonstrate its full independence and neutrality.
As a lawmaker, I understand my responsibility in supporting a national budget that goes towards real reforms of sectors that boost Cambodia’s productivity, the development of human resources and decent salaries for civil servants to work and live in dignity and not in the chains of corruption.
Mu Sochua is a member of parliament of the Cambodia National Rescue Party
Note. This article originally appeared in the Phnom Penh Post on October 30, 2014.
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