Technology to Blame for Lack of Clarity on Budget, Minister Says

Finance Minister Aun Porn Moniroth said Monday the country’s long-criticized budget-drafting process continues to be opaque due to a lack of technology that would allow his ministry to quickly process and share information with the public.

Speaking at a forum on efforts to improve budget transparency at the Finance Ministry, Mr. Porn Moniroth said a breakdown of the draft budget is released late every year, as it takes too long to prepare the document and post it to the ministry’s website.

“The problem is that…we lack technology to develop the financial reports due to many national accounts and need [more] time,” he said.

The $3.8-billion 2015 budget was pushed through the National Assembly in late November, despite opposition lawmakers criticizing it for its lack of details and ultimately abstaining from the vote.

Mr. Porn Moniroth said Monday, however, that starting next year, the government will use improved information technology systems and new accounting formats that would allow it to quickly post budget information to the Internet.

“The technology will make it so the financial reports are received on time and comply with international standards, which means the public will know” details of the budget, he said.

Despite the ministry’s efforts to reform the budget-drafting process, Son Chhay, a CNRP lawmaker and deputy chairman of the National Assembly’s finance and banking commission, said Monday that he was not holding out hope for reform.

“I doubt it’s going to happen,” Mr. Chhay said. “Until this process is more open and has more input from many levels of society, then we will continue to have a bad budget.”

Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, who attended Monday’s forum, said afterward that the event was a “positive first step.”

“However, we think it would have been better if such consultation and forums were held during the pro-cess of drafting the budget itself,” he added.

(Additional reporting by Chris Mueller)

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