PM creates complaints office
Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday announced the creation of a sub-national administrative office to collect complaints from concerned citizens and forward them to the appropriate institutions.
According to a sub-decree dated February 8, the sub-national offices were established to “promote good governance, public services and economic development to residents at the local level.”
The office will assess complaints handed to them, offer information to those in need of assistance and help connect people with relevant ministries and authorities who can help them.
Mr. Hun Sen also ordered officials to provide information about the overall results of their assistance and to spread word of the initiative.
The office will be divided in two, with one side receiving complaints and handling administrative work, while the other works on legal complaints and investigations.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the office is an easy and fast mechanism to solve problems for people. He also suggested that citizens should trust the new mechanism and feel confident in its ability to function.
“This group is formed to facilitate and implement the principles and policies of the government,” he said.
“This policy is to facilitate citizens who are concerned or dissatisfied with anyone or any public services. They have the right to file complaints at the place, simply saying, the solution is closer at the local level.”
Mr. Siphan said the Interior Ministry was organizing working groups on the initiative and will proceed with implementation in less than two weeks.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment yesterday.
San Chey, the country director of NGO Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, welcomed the plan and the effort by the government to tackle local concerns, but expressed worry that the offices would suffer from the same issues facing other government bodies.
He said it may take longer for solutions to be found through the offices and it may be difficult for local officials to address every conflict between residents.
“I do not really trust the efficiency of this mechanism in the long term,” he said.
“Local authorities are still limited in their operations. In addition, being unable to solve problems quickly is what is causing residents to give up on [government] mechanisms.
“Some cases might proceed to the court. How do poor people trust the court?”
The sub-decree said the offices will resolve complaints in a “neutral, transparent, fair and confidential” process and afford all citizens the right to file a complaint related to the provision of public services and administration – all with no fee attached.
People are encouraged to provide evidence and witnesses and will receive protection from threats or retaliation, the sub-decree stated.
Citizens across the country often travel to Phnom Penh to hand complaints to officials at ministry headquarters, hoping the issue will be dealt with faster than if they waited for regional offices to handle their problems.
Protests in the capital are often attached to the act of handing a petition or complaint to a government official, and many demonstrators continue to claim that they have to send in multiple complaints before their issue is addressed.
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