The ministers of interior and finance last month signed off on a document announcing official prices for basic government services such as the production of ID cards and passports in order to combat irregular fee collection, according to a copy of the document released Saturday.
The document, which was signed on March 18 by Interior Minister Sar Kheng and Finance Minister Aun Porn Moniroth, laid out the prices for all basic services provided by the Ministry of Interior and called for public servants to strictly keep to those prices.
“All revenue collection for administrative services must be done using the payment tickets provided by the Finance Ministry,” the document said.
It added that the Interior Ministry would establish an office to accept complaints about overcharging for services, and would make monthly and annual reports on revenue collection to the Finance Ministry, with the revenue going to the National Treasury for the national budget.
Among the prices listed, new passports will cost $100 for 20-day turnaround, $150 for 10-day turnaround and $200 for overnight turnaround. Family books and national ID cards will each cost 10,000 riel, or about $2.50.
Meas Sarim, an adviser at the Interior Ministry, said the announcement was released to combat informal overcharging for basic state services, a practice that runs rampant in many government departments.
“We issued this announcement to serve people transparently, because some officials in the cities and provinces charge people money without clearly mentioning the legal procedures,” Mr. Sarim explained.
Kay Vattana, who works in the passport office in Phnom Penh, acknowledged that charging more than the official price for passports was common.
“Usually we charge following the delimited price of the state, but we [also] charge $5 and $10 for our own benefit,” he said. “We do not require them to pay this, but they just give it under the table for me to get coffee.”
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said he doubted that an awareness campaign about official prices would reduce bribery.
“People are already aware of the prices, but if you want to get the application even accepted, you have to bribe the officials there, and then you cannot find the document when you want to get it back, so you have to pay someone to find it,” Mr. Chhay said. “It’s a business.”
Mr. Chhay said officials often take bribes to expedite the production of documents such as ID cards and passports to make up for money they have themselves lost bribing officials higher-up in the Interior Ministry.
“It is not only the people working in the office, but the people at the top who are in charge of the process, who charge for the application forms,” Mr. Chhay said.
“If you change things on the lower levels, but still require [lower-level officials] to pay to the top-levels, they will not be able to do their job.”
(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)