New Tax Director To Helm Dept Reforms

The tax department got a new director on Friday, just days after the former chief was publicly reprimanded and removed from his post by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

In a ceremony attended by the Fi­nance Ministry’s top officials, De­puty Director Sim Eang moved up a rank to replace his boss, Hong Tha, at the department’s helm.

“It’s a very nice surprise to be di­rector of the tax department,” Sim Eang said. “But today I am very sad that our director Hong Tha has been placed in a new job.”

Hun Sen told participants at a good governance seminar earlier this week that the tax department was not doing a satisfactory job and explained that, because he held no power over his corrupt sub­ordinates, Hong Tha would be re­shuffled to a position in the Council of Ministers.

But Friday, Finance Minister Keat Chhon gave a very different rea­son for the changeover. Al­though Hong Tha did his job well in 2004 and the department ex­ceeded its tax collection goal, he had to be removed for reasons of trans­parency and good governance, Keat Chhon said.

The finance minister ex­plained that replacing Hong Tha was not enough to improve tax re­ve­nues and clean up the department. In order to further the reform, several customs and ex­cise officials would also be fired. Keat Chhon did not specify who those officials were.

Despite his praise of Hong Tha’s work, Keat Chhon said he expected better results from the incoming director. “Your new job is to col­lect 20 per­cent more this year,” he told Sim Eang. “The ministry goal for 2005 is to collect up to $105 million in taxes.”

Sim Eang accepted the challenge and said that the department would adopt a more aggressive po­licy in its collection techniques.

“I’d like to promise that we will use a new tax collecting strategy,” he said. We will “go to find the mo­­ney, not wait for the money to come find” us.

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