The government’s faith in Phnom Penh’s embattled trash-collection company appears to have finally been lost after the Council of Ministers announced in a letter on Tuesday that a shake-up was on the way as it considers rescinding Cintri’s exclusive right to manage the city’s garbage for the next 25 years.
Persistent wage strikes by Cintri workers over the past year compounded the company’s floundering efforts to gain control of Phnom Penh’s ever-larger mounds of trash. City Hall has threatened several times to review the company’s contract, and in June was forced to deploy district security guards to clear away piles of garbage left uncollected after a walkout by truck drivers.
But rate-paying residents are fed up with half-measures, and the unlikelihood of Cintri improving its performance was at the center of a meeting about the capital’s trash-collection crisis at the Council of Ministers on February 4, which led to this week’s letter.
“[We] believe and agree that Cintri lacks the ability to strengthen or extend its garbage collection and transportation operation in accordance with Phnom Penh’s expansion, even after it was given one year to improve,” the letter says.
The letter empowers the Council of Ministers, the Environment Ministry and City Hall to “review the contract signed between Phnom Penh, City Hall and Cintri” and consider readjusting its responsibilities and the possibility of ending its “monopoly on the service” by bringing in another company.
Cintri chairman Seng Savy could not be reached Wednesday evening.
Seng Bunrith, a senior manager at Cintri, said the company was being held to unrealistic standards.
“I don’t know what criteria they are evaluating Cintri on—whether a good service is provided or a bad service depends on meeting time and cost restrictions,” Mr. Bunrith said, adding that the city’s traffic congestion had a significant impact on the company’s efficiency.
“I don’t think we can put all the blame on Cintri,” he said, adding that the firm still had a contract with City Hall that guaranteed their sole management of municipal trash collection until 2040.
Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong declined to comment, while City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said he had not seen the letter and so would not offer an opinion.
Daun Penh district governor Kuoch Chamroeun also said he had not seen the letter, but that it was more than clear that Cintri was not up to the job.
“Their collection of trash is not good enough, their transport of the trash is not good enough and it is just not acceptable,” he said.
The Council of Ministers letter sets out a six-point plan for restructuring the city’s trash-management system, including a directive for the interior and environment ministries to investigate the possibility of delegating the responsibility for overseeing garbage collection and transportation to district authorities.
Another directive calls for a study into ways to improve billing for municipal services—specifically finding a way to extricate the cost from electricity bills, which is how homes are currently charged, a system the Council of Ministers says has “been affecting people’s feelings recently.”