For more than five months, Cambodian senators have had little work to do. Less to do than usual, some would say.
Their job, to review and debate bills proposed by the National Assembly, has been halted since there are no bills to review or debate while the political deadlock delays the formation of the new government and Assembly.
“We depend upon the draft law coming from the National Assembly, but since July, we have received nothing, of course, and we wait,” said Prince Sisowath Chivan Monirak, first deputy president of the Senate.
Even though work flow has stopped, the senators’ salaries haven’t, Prince Chivan Monirak said, adding that the 61 senators receive more than $1,000 per month. Meanwhile, the Senate is slipping into debt, according to Secretary-General Oum Sarith. Administrative costs run about $2,500 per month, he said.
In a letter dated Jan 13, Oum Sarith said the Senate is borrowing from private sources to pay for its general functions since it can’t secure funds from the government during the political deadlock.
Interviewed by phone Tuesday, he declined to reveal the total amount of the Senate’s debt.
Some senators said Wednesday the lack of funds was of little concern, saying the finances would be resolved once the Assembly is in place. But the problem of senators’ workload remains, said Sam Rainsy Party Senator Ou Bunlong.
The Senate, which was created in 1999, is often criticized for its extravagant spending but little work. Ou Bunlong said the problem lies in the lack of power granted to the body. Under the Constitution, the Senate has one month in which to discuss and return a draft to the Assembly for resubmission.
But, Ou Bunlong said: “You just give your opinion on a law…[but] the National Assembly can vote against you. You cannot do anything.”
During his term, he said, he recalls only rejecting an Assembly draft one time.
Some argue “we spend money to do nothing,” he said.