Friday, 11 July 2014

Looking Nice Reform

“The Ministry of Economy and Finance must manage the inspection and preparation in providing salaries to ministries, institutions, cities, and provinces no later than the fourth week of each month.”

CPP prime minister’s directive, 29 January, 2014

“The government is just undertaking reforms to make things look nice, but this is useless to civil servants because this reform will not improve their living condition. Civil servants want to see that the government has an action plan for them to live with dignity in society,” he added.

Kao Poeun, president of the Cambodian Independent Civil Servant Association (CICSA), 9 February, 2014

It seems CICSA president Kao Poeun and the civil servants will have to wait a bit longer for the dignified life they long for. For now, the 29 January directive raises the following question: will their salaries be paid a month early, or a month late?

The pay processing is set to take four weeks. The directive instructs that all government establishments raise their salary payment forms and submitted by the first week of each month to the Ministry of Public Function. By the second week, those forms must go from there to the Ministry of Finance, where it will take two weeks to be finalised and approved for payment by the end of the month.

It is not clear, however, which month of work the payment process relates to. If the payment is for the month when the paperwork is processed, the civil servants will get their salary in advance for the time they have yet to work. The initial payment forms must assume on day one of the month, and all subsequent checking and approving must accept, that all payees will work for the whole month.

Nevertheless, if the initial payment form must record the actual time the civil servants have already worked, then the salary payment will, under this directive’s process, be at least a month late. Still, it will be an administrative improvement only if frequent reports of late payments that run into months are true.

Yet, the directive will be of some use to the civil servants if it is meant to allow an advance payment of salary. This will give them every opportunity to attend to their moonlighting, which does more for their stomach than their life dignity. Military and police offers become mercenaries; teachers conduct their classroom enterprises with their pupils; bureaucrats collect facilitation fees, and/or become angel employees at garment factories...

But whether the payroll is paid in advance or in arrear, with all the PhD brains and computers, do they really need a whole month to process it?

Then again, President Kao Poeun may be right all along: it is a reform of no substance.

Ung Bun Ang


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