Investors and officials looking to do business together at the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) will be subjected to new rules intended to foster greater transparency that were announced on Tuesday.
The new rules follow the weekend arrest of a CDC official for allegedly soliciting a $1,000 bribe.
In a statement dated Monday, the CDC announced a series of new measures that would require investors meeting with CDC officials to provide identity documents and forbid unrecorded informal meetings between them.
“Investors who are meeting the expert officials must hold an identification card, driver’s license or passport when registering, and the registering official will return [the documents to the investor] when the meeting is finished,” the statement says.
The subject, time, name of investor and name of their company will all have to be recorded during any meeting between a CDC official and an investor, the new rules stipulate. If such meetings are held outside of the CDC, the same rules must still be implemented, including the wearing of visitor passes.
CDC Secretary-General Sok Chenda Sophea and his deputy Chea Vuthy could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, but prominent businessman and ruling party Senator Mong Reththy said the rules were more about deterring phony investors from fishing for information than cracking down on corruption.
“Firstly, there are many guests who come to meet this or that official, but their meetings are useless and so the move would help prevent such disturbances,” he said, adding that the country was rife with dodgy businessmen seeking access to the body.
Han Khieng, CEO of the Cambodian Petrochemical Company, welcomed the new rules but said the requirement for valid identity documents was “too much,” as it could create an atmosphere of distrust between investors and officials.
“People who go to contact [the CDC] regarding investment are fairly high-class and so it sounds improper to hold such identity documents, and it has never been practiced in foreign countries, so I think it should not be done like that,” he said.
Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said moves to curtail the influence of shadowy middlemen in Cambodia’s business community were needed but stressed it would take time to assess the effectiveness of these specific mechanisms.
“I think meetings with records like that would be better than meetings held quietly and so it could be a way to let many people know about the meeting or consultation. I have never seen that mechanism,” he said.
Over the weekend, the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) charged 33-year-old CDC official Lay Tharoat with bribery after allegedly catching him taking $1,000 from a company to produce a tax-related form.
The ACU did not disclose the name of the company that had allegedly paid the bribe or announce charges against any of its staff.