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Ministry denies existence of ‘ghost’ officials

Sun Mesa / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Public officials attending seminar. KT Chor Sokunthea

The Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection yesterday during a press conference denied allegations that inactive and absent public officials are still being paid by some public institutions, despite claims the practice is rife in some ministries.

Inactive and absent public officials, often referred to as “ghost officials”, are bureaucrats, police officers and other civil servants who are on the government payroll but rarely come to work, choosing to work in higher-paying jobs in the private sector instead.

“We have made inspections regarding the issue, but found no ghost officials working at the ministries that we surveyed,” Nop Chanarin, spokesman for the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection, said. “Some officials have suspended their contracts and some are on field missions – so there are no ghost officials.”

He said the government has mechanisms in place to curb corruption and abuse of power in ministries.

“Inspection and law enforcement initiatives aim to reduce and curb corruption because it affects society and makes people lose faith in the government,” Mr Chanarin said. “We want a clean, transparent and just society.”

He said his ministry will launch an online portal for citizens who want to file complaints against ministries, including complaints about inactive officials.

“Our purpose is to make it easy for people to file ministry complaints,” Mr Chanarin said. “After a complaint is received, we will address it without delay – we need to make sure people get it done.”

However, a public servant working for the Religion and Cults Ministry, who declined to be named, yesterday said some colleagues only come to work for annual meetings.

“I am new [at the ministry], but I already see that only four or five people are working in my department, while a registry says more than 10 people are listed,” the public servant said. “They still receive money, but they only come to big meetings.”

“In my office, some people are involved in nepotism – they have their relatives working at the ministry,” the civil servant added.

Yong Kim Eng, president of the People Centre for Development and Peace, yesterday said despite denial by government officials, some public institutions still employ inactive and absent civil servants.

“It is an old issue and it is so complicated that most ministries do not dare to solve it, even if they have declared that their ministries are clean and that there is no practice of nepotism,” Mr Kim Eng said. “The leader of each ministry is afraid of sacking these [ghost officials] because some of them are relatives of high-ranking ministry officials. This [practice] remains the same.”

He said nepotism, corruption and lack of policy enforcement are prevalent in all ministries.

“Each ministry has increased expenses and public official recruitment drives, but those methods are not efficient,” he said. “These issues are an embarrassment to the government. They need to be addressed because they affect society and people are not happy.”

Last year, the ministry inspected 14 other ministries, including Health, Women’s Affairs and Education, for ghost officials and other issues, but the results of the inspection were not published.

The Interior Ministry in 2016 conducted an internal survey and warned it would sack 140 officials who skipped work for a better-paying job in the private sector.

Yuk Bunna, spokesman for the Public Services Ministry, yesterday said there are approximately 200,000 civil servants and the government will recruit an additional 6,000 more this year.

“The government has a clear plan to replace retiring officials,” he said.

Mr Bunna said the practice of ghost officials has ceased after the government implemented an electronic payroll system for civil servants.

“The management of officials in ministries is not perfect, but it is improving,” he said. “I cannot accept what critics said.”

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