In what officials call an effort to save on government utility bills, the Finance Ministry on Thursday asked ministries to reduce the use of power and water and for civil servants to stop stealing electricity.
A circular distributed to all ministries warned that a growing government debt to the power and water companies is causing problems for the already cash-strapped utility companies.
Since Oct 31, 1998, the government has run up a 26 million riel ($6,845) bill to Electricite du Cambodge and the Water Supply Authority.
“This debt is causing EdC and the Water Supply Authority problems in collecting investment capital,” the circular said.
In order to solve the cash problem, the Finance Ministry is asking that military, police and top officials who are illegally connected to ministry power sources have their wires disconnected.
Finance is also asking government officials who are connected to government power sources and reselling them to other people to cut their lines.
The circular did not say how many civil servants are thought to be stealing power from the government, but it is believed to be a fairly common practice.
Heng Yu Kheng, the director of EdC’s power distribution department, said that people have been stealing power from government ministries for years.
Government ministries still have not paid a water bill of about 2 billion riel (about $526,000) from 1998, Deputy Director-General of the Water Supply Authority Seng Tong said. He named the Education and Interior ministries as those with the biggest bills.
Seng Tong threatened to leave government offices without water if they didn’t pay what they owed.
“The [Finance] decision is a good one if it reminds the users they are responsible for paying their bill,” Seng Tong said.
Chhay Than, the minister of planning, said he has already asked his staff to be thrifty in their use of water and power, and has banned stealing power.