Information Minister Attempts to Rein In Absentee Officials

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Information Minister Khieu Kanharith
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Information Minister Khieu Kanharith warned he would publicly shame ministry officials who failed to come into work despite collecting salaries, tactics an accountability expert called questionable despite the need for reform.

Kanharith wrote on his Facebook page that he had received complaints about absentee officials who were employees “only in name,” and asked the ministry’s departments to send him their photos.

“It is to contribute to the good governance of the government for me to post the photos of those who take advantage of the ministry,” he wrote on Tuesday.

The presence of “ghost” officials — among Cambodia’s 200,000 civil servants as of 2017, according to the Civil Service Ministry — has been a long-standing and persistent problem despite Prime Minister Hun Sen’s repeated calls for reform.

Ministry spokesman Meas Sophorn, however, denied that there were many inactive officials at the ministry.

“Some officials are not present at their offices regularly, but they do their work and send the results of their work,” Sophorn said.

Affiliated Network for Social Accountability executive director San Chey said actions to remove inactive public officials were welcome, but questioned why the ministry wouldn’t take administrative action instead of public shaming them.

“[The ministry] should use existing mechanisms first, like issuing warnings or administrative punishment,” Chey said. “Posting their photos and names like this, I think, will affect the value of the civil service.”

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