Passage of legislation on legislative branch civil servants was again delayed Tuesday, as lawmakers clashed over whether some current workers would be grandfathered in under the law.
The law was expected to be approved Tuesday, but debate snagged on the second-to-last article. A special committee comprised of National Assembly, Senate and Constitutional Council members was set up to solve the problem.
The draft law aims to stop nepotism in the legislative branch by setting standards and procedures for the hiring of civil servants. The country’s current Civil Service Code governs only executive branch workers.
In debate Tuesday, lawmakers from both the CPP and Funcinpec agreed that current “permanent” staffers—longtime workers, many of them hired by the Hun Sen government of the 1980s, who receive pensions when they retire—should retain their positions.
The conflict came over whether the same privilege should be extended to “temporary” staff, hired on for a single five-year government term—most by National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Assembly Secretary-General Kol Pheng, both Funcinpec leaders.
Funcinpec lawmakers argued for keeping temporary staffers, CPP against. A law that attempts to de-politicize civil servant jobs generated a wholly political debate.
The Assembly currently has nearly 500 personnel, including about 180 temporary staff.
Under the proposed law, all would-be civil servants will have to pass a test and be Cambodian citizens over the age of 18 with no outstanding criminal convictions.
Article 74, which caused the argument Tuesday, states: “Integration of civil servants in the existing framework of the legislative branch must be based on current position, level of education and seniority. The decision is to be made by the institution’s president.”
CPP lawmakers, including Nguon Nhel, Assembly second vice president, spoke in support of the provision. Funcinpec lawmakers such as Monh Sophan, chair of the legislation commission, said the wording should be changed from “civil servants,” which they said implied only permanent workers, to “staff,” which would include temporary workers as well.