Without Set Fees, Money Talks at Records Office

Sylwester Letkiewicz looked on as his wife Pin Srey Mom negotiated with an official at the Justice Min­istry’s criminal record office on Monday.

Married three years ago, the couple has been trying to move to Letkiewicz’s home country of Can­ada, but they have encountered obstacles along the way. The biggest hurdle is a gap in Pin Srey Mom’s documentation: an official form certifying that she doesn’t have a criminal record was one of them.

It was this document that brought the couple to the Justice Ministry, and that’s where the ne­gotiations started.

“It depends on how fast you want it,” the 32-year-old Letkiewicz said of the criminal record documentation. “The faster you need it, the more money you pay.”

Signs posted in the Justice Mini­stry’s office list the documents that an applicant must present if he or she wants to obtain the letter saying they have no criminal record. There is also a sign admonishing applicants not to behave in a disruptive manner in the office, but no­where is there a notice saying how much people have to pay for the document.

When Pin Srey Mom, 30, first visited the criminal record office in November 2008, she was presented with three different fees to ob­tain the documents she needed: $5 for it to be processed in one month; $45 for two weeks; and $100 for one week.

Similarly, last October, Mov Kim­roeun, 58, had come to the office to request the same certification for her son, who was hoping to work abroad. An officer at the criminal record office asked for $150 to have the documentation ready by the next day.

“I did not understand the fee rate,” Mov Kimroeun said in an in­terview Monday.

“I had to give them [the money] because the application deadline was coming shortly,” she added.

Sure enough, the certificate she sought was completed by the next day, but at no point did she receive any sort of receipt from the criminal records department for the $150 she had parted with.

Uncertainty over the cost of se­curing the form is understandable, because according to criminal rec­ord bureau chief Mam Khadh Rang, no fee structure has ever been put in place for the service.

As he puts it, the service is essentially free but not free.

“It is free, but depends on [whether you want it] slower or faster,” he said.

He added, however, that there was no truth to any of his officials ever seeking more than $100 to handle the paperwork, and suggested that perhaps such exorbitant fees were actually being charg­ed by middlemen, or fixers, who were utilized by applicants to expedite the documentation process.

When asked why the Justice Ministry had failed to establish a set fee for the service, Mam Khadh Rang said the ministry could not fix the price because that was the re­sponsibility of the Finance Ministry.

And currently the processing fee is “outside the [Finance Ministry] tax inventory,” he said.

Mam Khadh Rang added that senior officials with the Justice and Finance ministries had been in discussions to determine fixed fees for acquiring the criminal record documentation.

“The delegate from the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the task force from the Ministry of Just­ice have reached an agreement in principle and forwarded it to each of the ministries’ leaders for en­dorsement,” he said.

In a Dec 30 letter from Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana to Finance Minister Keat Chhon, the justice minister strongly urged that the Finance Ministry publicly an­nounce a fixed price for acquiring criminal record documentation “as soon as possible in order to allow the Justice Ministry to work with transparency and free of irregularity as was the case in previous times.”

Finance Minister Secretary of State Chea Peng Chheang said this week his team was in the process of drafting the fee structure, and ex­pected to send those fees back to the Justice Ministry “in the coming weeks.”

But Chea Peng Chheang said it is possible there will still be different fees charged depending on how quickly an individual wants his or her application processed, but he expected the basic fee to be less than $5.

However, Chea Peng Chheang said he didn’t know how quickly the documentation will be proces­sed at the minimum fee. He also said he was surprised that people had been paying more than $100 for the documents, noting that such high amounts are usually reserved for items like a passport, which can be used over a period of years, whereas the criminal record form is only valid for three months.

“I am pushing for a regulation of the fee to prevent a bad effect on the public,” he added. By Phann Ana

The Cambodia Daily

Sylwester Letkiewicz looked on as his wife Pin Srey Mom negotiated with an official at the Justice Min­istry’s criminal record office on Monday.

Married three years ago, the couple has been trying to move to Letkiewicz’s home country of Can­ada, but they have encountered obstacles along the way. The biggest hurdle is a gap in Pin Srey Mom’s documentation: an official form certifying that she doesn’t have a criminal record was one of them.

It was this document that brought the couple to the Justice Ministry, and that’s where the ne­gotiations started.

“It depends on how fast you want it,” the 32-year-old Letkiewicz said of the criminal record documentation. “The faster you need it, the more money you pay.”

Signs posted in the Justice Mini­stry’s office list the documents that an applicant must present if he or she wants to obtain the letter saying they have no criminal record. There is also a sign admonishing applicants not to behave in a disruptive manner in the office, but no­where is there a notice saying how much people have to pay for the document.

When Pin Srey Mom, 30, first visited the criminal record office in November 2008, she was presented with three different fees to ob­tain the documents she needed: $5 for it to be processed in one month; $45 for two weeks; and $100 for one week.

Similarly, last October, Mov Kim­roeun, 58, had come to the office to request the same certification for her son, who was hoping to work abroad. An officer at the criminal record office asked for $150 to have the documentation ready by the next day.

“I did not understand the fee rate,” Mov Kimroeun said in an in­terview Monday.

“I had to give them [the money] because the application deadline was coming shortly,” she added.

Sure enough, the certificate she sought was completed by the next day, but at no point did she receive any sort of receipt from the criminal records department for the $150 she had parted with.

Uncertainty over the cost of se­curing the form is understandable, because according to criminal rec­ord bureau chief Mam Khadh Rang, no fee structure has ever been put in place for the service.

As he puts it, the service is essentially free but not free.

“It is free, but depends on [whether you want it] slower or faster,” he said.

He added, however, that there was no truth to any of his officials ever seeking more than $100 to handle the paperwork, and suggested that perhaps such exorbitant fees were actually being charg­ed by middlemen, or fixers, who were utilized by applicants to expedite the documentation process.

When asked why the Justice Ministry had failed to establish a set fee for the service, Mam Khadh Rang said the ministry could not fix the price because that was the re­sponsibility of the Finance Ministry.

And currently the processing fee is “outside the [Finance Ministry] tax inventory,” he said.

Mam Khadh Rang added that senior officials with the Justice and Finance ministries had been in discussions to determine fixed fees for acquiring the criminal record documentation.

“The delegate from the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the task force from the Ministry of Just­ice have reached an agreement in principle and forwarded it to each of the ministries’ leaders for en­dorsement,” he said.

In a Dec 30 letter from Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana to Finance Minister Keat Chhon, the justice minister strongly urged that the Finance Ministry publicly an­nounce a fixed price for acquiring criminal record documentation “as soon as possible in order to allow the Justice Ministry to work with transparency and free of irregularity as was the case in previous times.”

Finance Minister Secretary of State Chea Peng Chheang said this week his team was in the process of drafting the fee structure, and ex­pected to send those fees back to the Justice Ministry “in the coming weeks.”

But Chea Peng Chheang said it is possible there will still be different fees charged depending on how quickly an individual wants his or her application processed, but he expected the basic fee to be less than $5.

However, Chea Peng Chheang said he didn’t know how quickly the documentation will be proces­sed at the minimum fee. He also said he was surprised that people had been paying more than $100 for the documents, noting that such high amounts are usually reserved for items like a passport, which can be used over a period of years, whereas the criminal record form is only valid for three months.

“I am pushing for a regulation of the fee to prevent a bad effect on the public,” he added.

© 2009 – 2015, All rights reserved.