The current system of having parliamentarians from all parties represented in the provinces by a single provincial National Assembly office is not working and leaves too much power in the ruling party’s hands, an opposition lawmaker said Monday.
Claiming that civil servants who are CPP members tend to dominate the provincial offices and as a result do not have the trust of people who support other parties, Son Chhay said that individual provincial offices need to be established for each lawmaker.
“The core reason of having this office out there in each constituency is to allow villagers to bring in their complaints about various abuses,” Son Chhay said.
At a meeting last week in Phnom Penh, provincial assembly office staff told local and national officials that many of their premises lack even the most basic materials necessary to carry out their jobs, including telephones and fax machines.
The lack of resources means that constituents are more likely to travel to Phnom Penh to file complaints than to go to their local provincial Assembly office, CPP lawmaker Pen Panha said last week.
Son Chhay said the “best solution” to improve the work of the provincial offices is to make one for each parliamentarian.
“Do…poor villagers [dare] to bring their cases to the office if the ruling party is involved?” he asked.
National Assembly Deputy Secretary-General Chan Ven agreed with Son Chhay’s recommendation but said that the government simply cannot afford to offer an office to every lawmaker.
“It is a good idea, but we cannot set any [offices] up because we have no money,” Chan Ven said.
“We can’t even afford to pay one shared office. If any MP wants to get [an office], he can use his money to run it.”
Son Chhay also called on his fellow lawmakers to dip into their salaries to help keep the provincial offices afloat.
Since 1994, the National Assembly has established 21 Member of Parliaments’ Offices across the country, employing at least 40 assistants.
The assistants typically make about $50, officials said.
In the wake of last week’s meeting, next year’s budget for the provincial offices will include funding for to purchase a phone for every office and to convert all contract employees to full-time staff, Chan Ven said
“We will make this office an independent place for everyone to use and make all staff neutral to fulfill their work,” he added.