Investigation: The lack of the knowledge of the Pursat City Council is the obstruction to promote the accountabilityសាលាខេត្តពោធិ៍សាត់
Cambodia has commenced the election for Capital, Provincial, City, District, Khan Council since 2009. The government promulgated the Law on the Management on the Capital, Provincial, City, District, Khan Administration in 2008.
This law consists of 6 chapters, 286 articles. Article 19 states “Each council shall represent and act on behalf of all people living in its territory. The council shall manage the public finance affair to promote the sub national democratic development. The council shall manage the financial affair with accountancy and accountability to its people. The council shall manage the financial affair with accountancy and accountability to its people”.
In late 2016, early 2017, the Advocacy and Principle Institute (API) accepted what the people in Pursat province pointed out through the local public forum that the Pursat City Council which was elected locally by the people has yet to fulfill its duty properly in accordance with the defined law.
Report of this research said that the principal factor obstructing the implementation of such work was the capability of the council.
VOD journalist, Mr. NHEM Sokhorn travelled to there to conduct the deep inspection whether or not it is true that there is the matter of capability or knowledge, obstructing the implementation of the duties of the Pursat City Council failing to completely implement the duties to promote the governance in this city.
Pursat Province: In this second mandate, in Pursat city, there are 15 persons in the council, 14 persons of whom are from Cambodian People Party and the other one is from National Rescue Party. According to the condition stated in the Law on Election for Capital, Provincial, City, District, Khan Council, the education level for the candidates standing for the council is not determined. Article 21 states that the Khmer people of both genders wishing to be the candidates for the Election for Capital, Provincial, City, District, Khan Council have to be the Khmer national from birth who are at least 25 years old as of the electoral date, then they are entitled to the election.
Some councils giving the interview said that they were not authorized to make the detailed examination on the budget spent on the city development project or expense on other projects. Some said they had no skill to find out the fact of the financial reports submitted by the governing board in the meeting.
Approximately 20% of the members of the Pursat City Council cannot pay the field visit because they are over 70 years old and they have the constant diseases and so on.
Articles 34, 35, 36 and 43, of the Law on the Management of the Capital, Provincial, City, District, Khan Administration state that “the council may conduct the observation on all cases that the council finds it important for the people it represents as well as may disseminate the result of the observation and shall provide the principle of the implementation instruction for the governing board. Another part of the same law says that the council shall make the strategy to implement the development plan to ensure the accountancy and accountability to all people in its territory. The council shall manage the financial affair with accountancy and accountability to its people”.
According to the background of the Pursat City Council, stated in the biography data, it shows that only one person of the members of the city council is under 60 years old. The other 14 persons of the members of city council are from 60 to 70 years old. Based on the biographical data, up to 53% of the members of the Pursat City Council obtain the secondary senior high school education, which is also known as Bac II. Another 33% only completed or studied the secondary primary school or junior high school education.
This figure also shows that there are only two members of the council, equivalent to 1 3 percent completed the Master’s degree.
According to the minutes of the meetings for 6 months in early 2017, among 14 of the 15 members of the council, participating in the monthly meeting of the council, there are only 2 to 3 members raising the opinions in the meeting.
According to the minutes, Mr. NGIN Mean who completed the secondary primary school education had most frequent opinions. Mr. SIM Sovann and Ms. CHAK Neary who both completed the senior high school education are recorded as the ones raising frequent opinions too. But when a suggestion is approved, the minutes state that the members raise their hand for approval with the 14/14 vote and sometimes 14/15 vote.
Mr. CHAP Sophoan is one of the members of the council. His name is not recorded in the minutes of the meeting of the Pursat City Council that he had the opinion in the meetings. He said in the interview with the news reporter of VOD that the knowledge of the council shall be reformed to reach the desirable goal. According to Mr. CHAP Sophoan, at least 2 or 3 members of the council cannot come to work because they are old and have the constant diseases.
Mr. CHAP Sophoan: “If we look at the ability of our human resources compared to the implementation of the law stated, it does not reach there, it is not 100% suitable. In term of the ability, it needs further training courses”.
Another member of the council, Mr. TENG Chhun Eng said that the technical words in the report made him unable to understand and said that they made him difficult to have the opinions in the meetings. Mr. TENG Chhun Eng futher said that he had never asked about any report of the city in the meetings.
Mr. TENG Chhun Eng acknowledged that this shortcoming is the defect in fulfilling the duties to ensure the accountability to the people.
Mr. TENG Chhun Eng: “the factors which are the problems are that 1st, I think that less or more, we do not possess the [financial] skill. They just put the figure on the [report], we do not understand that so how can we ask them? It is hard for us. They put that for us to see, when we do not understand, we ask them to explain. Regarding the ability, the council has no members related to the finance”.
Mr. REM Sameun is the only member of the council from National Rescue Party. He said that he never asked the governing board about the financial report of the city and sometimes he did not raise the hand to approve of the expenditure plan of the city because he stated that he hardly understood.
The Advocacy and Principle Institute API in 2015 showed the report on research focusing on 4 provinces including Pursat province and evaluated that few of the councils completed the university education. This report show that among 135 members of the councils, there are 32.1 percent completing the high school education. 30.5 percent completed Bachelor’s Degree. 24.4 percent completed junior high and Bac II education. 8.4 percent completed Master’s Degree and 0.8 percent completed Ph.D.
Mr. SAMRITH Eng is the Director of Pursat City Council. In the monthly meeting minutes, Mr. SAMRITH Eng reminded the members of the city council to strengthen the effectiveness of the work performance through the participation in the forum in Sangkat with partner organizations in order to collect the problems of the people to be resolved.
Regarding the project facilitator of the Children Future Organization, which is the organization focusing on the good governance, Mr. LONH Sok khoeun said that after conducting the public forum in 49 communes in this province, he said that the Pursat City Council participated more actively than Kra Kor district and Phnom Kravanh district. However, he said that the ability of the Pursat City Council shall be strengthened by having more training courses.
Mr. LONH Sokhoeun says ”the composition of the council comes from different [parties] and they do not understand the law, what duties of the council are, what the democratic development is and what the right and duty exercises are, how they are exercised. They do not understand. Regarding the collection of the people to participate in their work activities, what they should do. What methods shall be done. To sum up, they want to strengthen their ability, knowledge to implement their functions and duties effectively”.
Regarding to the report of Children Future Organization, in the training course on 18 September 2013, it was recorded that there were 12 members of the council equivalent to 80 percent participating and in the training course on 28 October 2015, there were 7 members of the council equivalent to 46 percent participating.
More than 10 members of the city council participated in 2 different public forums in 2017. 11 members of the council participated in the public forum organized by Children Future Organization on 28 June in Pursat city. 10 members of the council participated in another forum organized by the same organization on 29 June 2017.
The member of the council, Mr. CHAP Sophoan said that the council implemented the plan to strengthen the ability of the council from the 1 mandate to this 2nd mandate. He said that based on strengthening the ability, it is done for both national and sub national levels and said that it is done with the partner organizations including Advocacy and Principle Institute (API) and Children Future Organization.
The hand written report handed over by the member of the council showed that from January to August 2017, the council participated in 6 training courses and 1 course in the national level on 12 May 2017.
The report of API showed that 79 members of the councils replied to the question which is “have you ever participated in the training course on the access to information?
The report shows that among 79 members of the councils who replied, there were 58.5 percent participating in the training courses while 41.5 percent replied not to participate.
The officer of the program of API, Mr. MANN Vann Phanith let us know that according to conducting the research and having the direct interview, he said that the Pursat City Council is highly committed to fulfilling its duties. However, Mr. Phanith said that the factors obstructing them not to completely fulfill their duties are stated in the law. He said that the knowledge was a part of obstruction to ensure the accountability.
Mr. Phanith: “The council directly raised when we conduct the evaluation on their ability. He raised two main points which are: first, however, the authority or ministries taught or provided the assistance on training on the duties, the problems are still there for some councils who do not understand their duties and authority. Regarding this point, we see that they still cannot understand clearly. Second, it is another important point. They want the civil society organizations as well as the government to further help train them about how they should inspect the spent budget of the city to ensure the effectiveness to be surely free of corruption”.
The report of the study of the ability of the council showed that among 76 members of the councils, there were 86.6 percent replied that they could understand the Law on Management on Commune, Sangkat Administration, they could know the Decree on Authority Centralization.
The same report also found that regarding the challenge of the council, there were 80 percent having a lack of knowledge of the information; 82.2 percent having no will to communicate the information to the people; 65.5 percent having no news about the management; 26.9 percent saying that there was the political threat and 43.2 percent having a lack of the information.
API also evaluated that the councils truly needs further training courses to strengthen their ability in order for them to fulfill the duties effectively. The report of the government showed similarly to API about challenges of the knowledge of the councils, which obstructs to promote the accountability.
According to the meeting on the situation inspection of the work implementation in City, District, Khan Administration organized by the National Committee for Sub National Democratic Development (NCDD) on 1 August 2017, having the sub national officer representatives from 25 capital, provinces, it is pointed out that the capacity and having no skill of the councils are the part obstructing the implementation of the sub national democratic mechanism.
The result of the meeting wrote that “the challenge is the lack of capacity, skill, having no mechanism for monitoring and evaluating the capacity of the officers performing the work, having no plan for development of the human resource in the specific skill” and wrote that” the knowledge of the councils on the budget management remains limited which is hard to ensure if the approval is right or not”.
The report also highlighted the perspectives of the vice present of the National Committee for the Sub National Democratic Development called NCDD, Mr. NGAN Chamroeun for reforming the work implementation from 2018 to 2020 which is that the function transfer to the sub national level shall be necessarily connected to the human resources transfer.
The Chief Executive Director of Cambodian Society Accountability, Mr. SAN Chey said that the sub national democratic development cannot guarantee the social accountancy and accountability if the councils who are the promoters and observers have less knowledge than the officers implementing those activities.
Mr. SAN Chey also said that NCDD should have the specific principles to select the candidates of the councils as the skilled officers or request to amend the law to determine the education so that the sub national democratic development could be promoted.
The director of NCDD, Mr. SAK Setha said that it is hard to enable the councils who are the sub national officers to be of skillful ability like the officers in the departments and ministries. However, he said there were oriental programs for the councils.
He says:” we have the orientation. Normally, depending on the circumstance, the orientation takes place two times or three times a year according to the project. But we should not forget that taking the politicians to be trained to be the skilled people is difficult because they come from different backgrounds“.
The members of the council said that the capacity training is what they want.
To Mr. CHAP Sophoan, he wants to see the councils to be healthy, capable, have good ethics, humble, to create the activities to pay the visit in the communities and the participation of the youth.
Mr. TENG Chhun Eng wishes to have more training programs created to strengthen the capacity of the councils.
Ms. CHAK Neary wants the partner organizations to increase the training courses to the councils. She also requests to have more candidates of the councils as the women and youth.
5 of the 15 members of the council who were interviewed said that they needed the training courses to strengthen the capacity.
The female member of the council, Ms. CHAK Neary wants the partner organizations to increase the training courses to the councils.
Ms. CHAK Neary:”we receive many the trainings but we seem like to remember a little and forget a lot and the practice is not very common, having small paces; however, we make efforts for the skills we are responsible. We keep trying”.
The member of the council, Mr. CHAP Sophoan appealed to the all political parties to look at the capacity, to consider the women and the youth when selecting the candidates of the councils in the next mandate.
Mr. CHAP Sophoan:”regarding the selection of the council next time, which the political parties need to select, it shall consider: 1st point is capacity, 2nd is health and 3rd is consideration of the women and the youth, should they apply, they shall be facilitated to be allowed”.
VOD could not ask for the explanation about the principles of the National Rescue Party on the capacity of the members of the District, Khan, Provincial, City, Capital Councils until the news was concluded.
The spokesperson of the Cambodian People Party, Mr. SOK Ey San said that the party could not interfere deeply to point out to place anyone to be the District, Khan, Capital, Provincial, City Council. He said that the elected candidates of the District, Khan, Capital, Provincial, City Council and the Commune, Sangkat Council are the ones to select. But this spokesperson said that the party would consider the suggestion as per the party’s principle by giving priority to the senior one and the next sequence number is the new one.
He says:”building the human resources is that we do not give up on the senior ones who have achieved the good works. However, we shall have the sustainability of the seniors in addition to the new comers. We cannot give up on all the seniors and take all the new ones. When we give the attention to the women, it is not that we follow the theory and we choose all of them because the women in the society in Cambodia remain limited because their education is challenging and the election for the candidates dose not only take place to have the presence, they are selected to perform the works. When working, they shall be qualified for those works. First, they shall be capable. Second, they shall have the good ethics. Third, they shall have a good stance, be healthy and if they possess a high degree, but their health is not good, laying on the mat, they cannot perform the work. That is how it works together”.
According to Mr. SOK Ey San, the ruling party would not consider to amend the law because if the Ministry of Interior does not show the official report from the government that the knowledge of the current councils is the principal factor obstructing to promote the sub national democratic development.