The results are in for the nation’s first civil service examination in decades, and more than half of those on the list to fill 1,600 new commune clerk jobs are civil servants or commune workers.
Reform groups say that was just what they had feared would happen. They say what had been billed as a merit selection process is not fair.
Before the testing, election monitoring groups said they were afraid that the commune clerk jobs might be politicized, because candidates will be chosen by Ministry of Interior officials. Now, they say, those fears have come true.
Nearly 5,000 people took the test March 25, and officials say 1,830 applicants passed. Eight hundred were students; 250 were civil servants; and 780 were people already working for the commune governments.
Sak Setha, Ministry of Interior general director for the department of administration, said the government decided to give preference to civil servants and “experienced communal officers.” The commune clerk tests were given as part of the process for the nation’s first commune elections, scheduled to take place on Feb 3, 2002.
Sak Setha said nations that give money to Cambodia don’t want the important new commune clerk jobs filled only by inexperienced students. And, he said, the Council of Ministers had issued a declaration in June that civil servants should get “priority.”
Sek Sophal, director of the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections and one of the independent monitors who observed the testing, says that is not fair.
“It is not good that the Ministry of Interior gives [preference] to officers,” he said. He wondered about the pre-election claims that the jobs would be open to anyone who qualified.
Students want good jobs and a chance to gain experience, he said, adding that granting priority to the others was unfair to students who could barely afford the application fee for the test.
“What a waste, and how discouraged [students] are when they don’t get equal treatment with civil servants,” he said.
Sak Setha noted that the 800 students who posted high scores were put on the list as well as those from the two preference groups.
The test was administered to applicants for commune clerk jobs in about 1,600 communes, with another 300 serving as a reserve list.
The government remains 70 candidates short of its goal of 1,900 qualified applicants.
“We have successfully selected the qualified people for the clerk jobs on an unbiased basis, but we need more,” Sak Setha said. He said the ministry might schedule another test to recruit additional candidates.