By Somxay Sengdara
December 18, 2012
National Assembly members have called for the Anti-Corruption Agency to become independent, saying it is currently ineffective due to its system of administration.
NA members discussed this yesterday when debating the amendment to the Law on Anti-Corruption at the fourth ordinary session of the Seventh Legislature.
“We cannot just use ‘anti-corruption’ as a word or phrase in the law, we need to create a mechanism to enforce it,” said NA member for Champassak province, Mr Meksavanh Phomphithak.
He said that, in his experience, officials tasked with fighting corruption are afraid to carry out inspections because they work for a government agency but, in fact, most corruption occurs among people working in government administration.
Mr Meksavanh pointed out that although it is almost 10 years since the original law was passed, the Anti-Corruption Agency has never been established.
The existing law has 10 chapters divided into 53 articles, while the new draft has 11 chapters containing 65 articles.
The President of the State Inspection Committee and Head of the Anti-Corruption Agency, Dr Bounthong Chitmany, introduced the draft law to the NA session.
Article no. 49 describes the workings of the anti-corruption agency and its personnel structure. The agency is to have branches at the central, ministerial, provincial and city and district or municipal levels.
The article is a revision of the existing Article no. 38. The draft contains more information and adds a description of the personnel structure.
Mr Meksavanh said the existing law has no teeth because the head of any arm of the Anti-Corruption Agency can be downgraded or fired by his or her administrative manager. For example, the head of the agency at the provincial level can be downgraded or fired by the provincial governor, and similarly at other levels.
“Nothing changes because the agency is subject to the power of the administration. I don’t see how a district level anti-corruption agency could investigate an offence within the district administration because the district governor himself appoints the agency head. The same is true at the provincial level,” he said.
Mr Meksavanh wants the Anti-Corruption Agency at the central level to be independent from administrative power, and suggested it be run along the same lines as the State Audit Organisation. This agency is obliged to report on its work to the National Assembly and operates under the guidance of the National Assembly.
“This will be the best way for the Anti-Corruption Agency to have an impact, because the National Assembly represents the people. This will enhance the role and capacity of the National Assembly,” Mr Meksavanh said.