An anti-corruption draft law has been kicked back by the Council of Ministers for a rewrite, delaying its submission to the National Assembly at least until mid-October, officials said.
The Council of Ministers sent the draft back after a group of roughly 30 NGOs and international donors criticized it, said Center for Social Development President Chea Vannath.
The draft had called for establishing two separate investigating bodies in government and would have required government officials to declare their assets—although these declarations would be kept confidential.
Critics made collective recommendations that just one investigative body be formed and that the law require a truly public disclosure of assets, Chea Vannath said. “The idea is to stress the independence and authority of just one investigating body, with no pressure from any one individual in power,” she said.
The new recommendations also suggest that anyone nominated to the regulatory body be approved by the King, she said.
But Chea Vannath said it remains to be seen whether the recommendations will be incorporated into the next draft, which is to be written by the Ministry of National Assembly Relations and Inspection.
During a break at a weeklong anti-corruption conference in Phnom Penh, one exasperated official said the legislation is too important to be delayed by what he believes are bureacratic procedures. “We’ve been working on this law since 1994,” said Khau Menghean, secretary of state for the Ministry of National Assembly Relations and Inspection who is heading the push to complete the draft and get it passed. “Without it, we have no credibility. It’s time to get it through,” he said Wednesday.
But Peter Larmour of the Australian National University noted at the anti-corruption conference that swift action on the problem of corruption can take place even without a law in place.
He said trying to attack corruption wholesale only breeds cynicism. Instead of a “systematic” approach to eradicating corruption, he called for quick attacks on individual departments where corruption is most evident.
“We don’t need to wait for the law, or for more resources, or for more aid,” Larmour said. “There are things we can do now.”