Government Audit Five Years Late, Lacking

More than five years after the close of the 2008 fiscal year, the National Audit Authority (NAA) on Thursday released its audit into the government’s financial management in 2008.

The 38-page report is only the third such audit carried out since the department opened in 2000 and began operations in 2002.

“The objective of this dissemination is to inform the general public and to help the government in improving public finance and cooperation by mentioning any shortfalls in the previous implementation [of the budget],” said NAA General Director Som Kim Suor at the launch of the report at the Cambodiana Hotel.

Among the shortfalls highlighted in the report was insufficient examination of tax fees, incomplete tax declarations by numerous companies, the lack of a business census, and a faulty procurement process for government agencies. Ms. Kim Sour said the report had been sent to the National Assembly and relevant ministries to carry out suggested reforms.

The department of taxation declined to comment, but Bou Bunara, chief of public relations at the Ministry of Finance’s general department of customs and excise, suggested the recommendations aimed at his agency were outdated.

“We have adjusted and reformed a lot [since 2008] to solve the problems,” he said.

Key issues left out of the NAA’s audit included a review of swapped state property, and a review of government offices and officials who purchased office equipment but did not produce receipts.

“The NAA has not listed this issue…because it’s just a horse replaced by a horse,” said Ms. Kim Sour, when asked why land swaps weren’t investigated. “We just wait and track it further.”

San Chey, a fellow with the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific, a regional body that urges greater government transparency, said the audit was flawed.

“I think the distance between 2008 and 2014 is too far—it is an expired report,” he said. “They found the problems from 2008, so the people involved could have corrected those problems [since], meaning the report is useless.”

Mr. Chey said he was concerned that the lengthy delay suggested the NAA was ill prepared to be carrying out such investigations. “We worry that they don’t have enough capacity to do it,” he said. “Their report is a shame.

Ms. Kim Sour said the NAA expected its 2010 and 2011 audits to be published within the year.

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