TI says judiciary most corrupt

Preap Kol says institutions meant to provide justice are seen as abusing power. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Preap Kol says institutions meant to provide justice are seen as abusing power. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The judiciary remains the most corrupt public institution in the eyes of Cambodians, Transparency International in its 2016 Global Corruption Barometer report yesterday.
In a survey of 1,003 Cambodian adults, meant to represent a cross-section of the nation’s population, TI found that 59 percent of respondents viewed the judicial system as being corrupt.
The last time the judiciary did not top the list as being the most corrupt was back in the 2009 report.
The police force was seen as the second-most corrupt public institution in Cambodia, followed by government officials, the office of the prime minister and tax officials.
“The institutions that are supposed to be protecting and providing justice for the people are instead being viewed by the people as abusing their power, so that is the unfortunate reality,” TI Cambodia executive director Preap Kol said on the sidelines of the report’s release yesterday in Phnom Penh.
The report noted a marginal decline in the number of Cambodians who considered the judiciary as being corrupt last year compared with 2013.
In 2013, 60 percent of respondents saw the judicial system as being corrupt compared with 59 percent last year.
However, the 2016 report also showed that the perceptions of the police force and government officials worsened compared with three years earlier.
In 2013, only 37 percent of Cambodians considered the police force as being corrupt, but last year, the data showed that more than half the respondents, or 52 percent, perceived the police to be corrupt.
As with government officials, 2013 data showed that only 30 percent of respondents saw them as corrupt compared with 44 percent in 2016.
Despite that, the report also revealed that Cambodians were far less likely to offer bribes last year compared with 2013, with only 11 percent choosing to bribe police officers last year compared with 60 percent in 2013.
Similarly with the application for ID cards and civil registry documents, the instances of respondents saying they offered bribes were halved last year, standing at 30 percent.
“There have been government reforms to prevent local officials from asking for unofficial fees in exchange for issuing civil registry documents, ID cards or other basic services,” Mr. Kol said.
“There’s also been some efforts that we’ve seen by the relevant ministries who issue price lists and time frames for providing public services and some intervention to prevent bribery.
“So that drop in bribery would be, in my view, accredited to that reform.”
However, he was quick to make the distinction between the drop in instances of bribery and a decline in overall corruption.
“But this is petty corruption that we see related to bribery. If we ask, ‘Has corruption decreased?’ I’d say ‘yes’ but only in the aspect of petty corruption,” he said.
“In terms of grand corruption, according to the view and perception of the experts from the CPI [Corruption Perception Index] it remains relatively the same and there needs to be some fundamental reform to change that perception,” he said.
Mr. Kol said yesterday’s survey merely portrayed the perception of small-scale corrupt practices among low-level officials while the CPI, which TI released last month and showed Cambodia’s ranking as still being the most corrupt nation in Southeast Asia, portrayed perceptions about systemic and institutionalized graft practices.
The CPI, which is conducted based on interviews with experts and specialists, also found the judiciary’s practices as the reason it ranked 156th of the 176 countries studied.
TI also yesterday recommended that the judiciary and the Anti-Corruption Unit improve efforts to ensure their independence as well as encourage politicians to publically declare their assets, a suggestion that was not well received by either side of the political divide.
“We follow the law, and we don’t do anything against the law,” ruling CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan said, adding that his party will only declare their assets should it be legally required.
He also criticized the findings that the judiciary was seen as the most corrupt public institution in Cambodia, adding: “If we are the most corrupt nation, how could we have developed the country?”
The opposition CNRP was also not keen on the recommendation to declare their assets, saying it was not legally required, but lauded the overall report.
“This report reflects the reality,” said spokesman Yim Sovann, adding that the report merely showed a reduction in low-level corruption but did not address systemic corruption in the country.

 Source: Khmer Times
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