Budget transparency remains low in Cambodia

On March 07, 2013, a group of different stakeholders met at a workshop at Sunway hotel in Phnom Penh to find out what the global Open Budget Survey (OBS) 2012 has revealed about Cambodia’s situation and progress with regards to budget transparency, accountability and participation.

Hosted by The NGO Forum on Cambodia (NGOF)—the institution undertaking the OBS 2012—along with Advocacy and Policy Institute (API), Cambodians Resource Revenue Transparency (CRRT), Oxfam and Transparency International Cambodia (TI Cambodia), the launch workshop was participated and attended by over a hundred participants from various government ministries, development partners, civil society organizations (CSOs), research institutions, universities and the media. Speakers and commentators on the survey findings comprised of representatives from the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), World Bank, Cambodia Economic Association (CEA), NGO Education Partnership (NEP), Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC), API and NGOF who shared a common view on the importance of the OBS and its findings for Cambodia, with emphases on different details.

The survey results indicated that Cambodia’s budget transparency, as measured by public availability of the eight key budget documents—Pre-Budget Statements, Executive Budget’s Proposals, Enacted Budgets, Citizens Budgets, In-Year Reports, Mid-Year Review, Year-End Reports and Audit Reports—has remained 15 out of 100, the same score it had received in 2010. This score means that the Royal Government of Cambodia has provided the public with scant information on its management of the public budgets. Also assessed by the OBS 2012 was the strength of oversight institutions, namely the National Assembly and the National Audit Authority, which was revealed to be moderate; and opportunities for public participation in the budget process, which remains weak.

Commenting at the workshop, Mr. Ngo Sothath, CEA senior researcher, viewed the OBS 2012 as an important tool providing a first-layer snapshot of a country’s transparency along its budget cycle. Parallel to his view, Mr. Phenn Rithipol, MEF representative, agreed that the choice of the eight key budget documents as proxies for budget transparency is good, but suggested that the survey should look into further details to understand the efforts being made by the MEF to improve the whole budget system. As to why some key budget documents are not published, he explained that budget constraint and public demand play a role, especially with regards to the publication of the Citizens Budget. Also commenting on was Ms. Leah April, World Bank senior public sector management specialist, who agreed that there is significant room for improvement for Cambodia by publishing those documents already produced for internal use in public domain, and this can be done with little or no cost. She also stressed the need for CSOs to keep having constructive dialogues with the ministry, and providing evidence of the importance of fiscal transparency on a range of development outcomes that are the core focus of the Royal Government of Cambodia.

For further information, please refer to the documents below:

  • Agenda “Launchof the Open Budget Survey 2012 findings for Cambodia” (KH & EN)
  • Opening remarks from Mr. Chhith SamAth (KH)
  • Joint-media release (KH & EN)
  • The Dar Es Salaam Declaration on Budget Transparency, Accountability and Participation (EN)
  • Presentation slides

Budget Transparency Brief No. 4, January 2013 (EN)