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Sar Kheng: Commune administrations must not be underestimated

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:
Interior Minister Sar Kheng. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng yesterday urged officials at municipal, provincial, city and district administrations to stay within their jurisdiction and not to interfere with the function of commune administrations.

His remarks were made yesterday following notice of officials at sub-national administrations who have the tendency to cross the line and misunderstand the measures for decentralisation reform.

He said the reform policy of decentralisation aimed to transfer the power, function, and resources of the government to sub-national administrations, relegating the responsibility of providing public services and meeting public demands to them. This was an effort to bring the local government closer to the people and to allow for the transparent and timely provision of services, while increasing resources and the participation of communities in local development.

Municipal, provincial, city and district councillors are appointed by the party while commune councillors are elected by the people.

“We must remember that commune councillors represent the citizens, thus all decisions must be made for the benefit of the public,” he said.

“Officials at municipal and provincial administrations must not abuse the rights of the people nor underestimate the roles of commune administrations.”

“If we didn’t transfer power to the commune councillors, how can they complete their tasks sufficiently? How can they respond to the public’s concerns and guarantee development at local levels?” questioned Mr Kheng.

Commune councillors, he noted, must cooperate with the ministerial and provincial authorities to receive technical support and benefit from capacity-building initiatives to ensure that the budget is effectively utilised. People Centre for Development and Peace president Yong Kim Eng yesterday supported Mr Kheng’s statement, saying that such ideas should have been implemented a long time ago.

“I think officials at municipal, provincial, city, and district levels should have acted like a bridge rather than supervisors giving commands to the commune councillors. Otherwise, the commune level will lose its right to decide, which is contrary to the purpose of the decentralisation reform,” he said.

Mr Kim Eng called on the government to monitor the roles and functions of officials at sub-national levels in order to avoid the abuse of power.

Last year, the government issued a sub-decree to set the annual budget of each commune in the Kingdom to $120,000 for 2020 – a sharp increase from the 2019 budget of $35,000.

National League of Local Councils head Soy Kosal said yesterday the government is currently planning on increasing commune budget in the upcoming years, saying that each commune will receive about $190,000 in 2023.

“It is important to encourage good governance at sub-national levels since they play a main role in delivering public services to people,” he said.

“The government has always put a lot of effort in promoting liability at commune levels so they can serve people effectively,” Mr Kosal added.

The Kingdom has 1,410 provincial communes and 236 municipal communes.

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