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30 Tax Agents To Face Corruption Charges

A watchdog organization says the Ministry of Economy and Finance's tax collectors are bilking the country out of at least a million dollars a year by overcharging for annual vehicle stickers.

Thirty tax officials will face the loss of their jobs, after an investigation by the new Anti-Corruption Unit.

Om Yentieng, a senior government advisor and head of the ACU, told reporters Wednesday the 30 agents from the Ministry of Finance’s taxation unit had overcharged vehicle owners as much as $1.20 per annual registration tag.

The ACU was acting on complaints filed by an NGO on behalf of more than 200 citizens who said they were routinely overcharged for vehicle registration.

The complaints were the first real test of the ACU, which was formed as part of a recently passed anti-corruption law. Some 2,700 people from 14 provinces contributed corruption complaints earlier this year.

“I will send all the evidence concerning the 30 agents to the Ministry of Economy and Finance and its general department of taxation tomorrow morning to make administrative punishments,” Om Yentieng said. “I believe that anyone who has made a serious mistake will be sacked from his or her job.”

Other administrative punishments can include the loss of promotion or suspension.

The ACU has compiled a 14-page brief, provided to reporters, that identifies the alleged corrupt agents, provides photo IDS and lists the sites were they allegedly bilked motorists of their money.

According to the brief, vehicle owners were overcharged for annual registration on “pretexts,” such as the cost of forms themselves, of filling out the forms or even for the purchase of drinking water.

San Chey, a project coordinator for the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific, which gathered the complaints, said administrative punishment was acceptable for now.

“Next year, we want to see those guilty of corruption sentenced to prison,” he said. “But for this year, administrative punishment is an acceptable act for civil society.”

Om John, deputy chief of the Ministry of Finance’s tax department, said agents would not escape punishment.