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As More Money Comes to Education, So Do Fears of Corruption

Ministry of Education Youth And Sports building, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, August 8, 2015. (Photo: Sou Pisen/ VOA Khmer)

The $4.3 billion budget, approved recently by Prime Minister Hun Sen, allocates $500 million for education.

The 2016 national budget puts more money into education than previous budgets, but development organizations say that could lead to worse corruption in the sector.

The $4.3 billion budget, approved recently by Prime Minister Hun Sen, allocates $500 million for education, which is more than defense and security, a rarity in Cambodia’s budgetary process. That figure represents a 28 percent increase over last year’s budget, which totaled $3.8 billion.

However, Kao Poeun, executive director of the Khmer Institute for National Development, said that boost should be accompanied by an increase in reforms.

“There are a lot of needs in this sector,” he said. “We still lack libraries in schools, or sanitary facilities at schools, so we hope that this increase will reach and contribute at the sub-national level.”

But for all the good it could do, the budget increase is an area of concern, he said. That’s because a lack of transparency and a culture of corruption could eat into the funding.

“I can’t see that the Ministry of Education has a mechanism to prevent corruption,” he said. The ministry will need to create a system of checks and balances to prevent a loss of funds to corruption, he added.

Ministry of Education officials could not be reached for comment.

Ouk Chhayavy, acting president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said improper budget allocation without proper oversight creates the potential for corruption, taking money away from renovation, repairs, the purchase of study materials and other critical school needs. “It’s not a good way to reform education,” she said.