Senior Ministry of Health medical staff have alleged that they were forced, and are being forced, to pay large kickbacks to senior officials in exchange for the dispersal of a long-delayed pay increase.
In late 2004, then-Health Minister Nuth Sokhom promoted dozens of medical staff to the positions of deputy director of hospitals and departments in the ministry.
The ensuing pay increases, covering 37 months from the date of their promotion, however, only started to be paid in October of this year.
But in order to receive their backdated pay packets, several medical staff alleged Sunday that they have been told to pay huge chunks to superiors.
Of those interviewed Sunday, all of whom requested anonymity for fear of retribution, three said they were forced to pay out half of their accumulated three years of pay increase in order to receive anything.
One, a deputy bureau chief at a Ministry of Health school, said he handed over 50 percent of $2,500 owed to him. “I had to promise I would give it to them for their help [in my getting paid],” he said.
“I could not oppose them. They are my superiors,” he said, declining to name those involved.
A deputy director at a Phnom Penh hospital said she is being asked to pay $1,500 of $3,000 owed to her.
“They repeatedly phoned me asking for kickbacks. It is too much for me,” she said, adding that if the money is not paid, she might be targeted in the future and likely passed over for another promotion.
Health Minister Mam Bun Heng was too busy to speak with a reporter on Sunday.
Ministry of Health Secretary of State Heng Taikry said he was aware of the kickback allegations, but he did not have details.
“I am not clear…I just heard this also,” Heng Taikry said.