Decentralization & De-concentration And Social Accountability Reform in Cambodia

In democratic country, the establishment, legal and regulation, is significant and crucial to improve public service provisions in term of decision making and resource allocation transparently, efficiently and effectively. With this regard, ministries had decentralized power to their sub agency bodies & sub national level; however, there is a puzzle whether or not sub agency bodies are ready for this centralization-both administration and human resources. If decentralized function is limited to some extent, how is social accountability important for this reform? There might be some significant manners for social accountability to push sub-national administration to serve better function on public service provisions. 

There is no significant study to measure whether local administration is ready for decentralization. Cambodia seems to be young to make administrative reform at that time, and without helps from donors, international NGOs and IGOs, maybe it’s hard for Cambodia to handle in both system management and resources. However, Cambodia had reached such good initiatives for administrative reform. 

Resource in the national budget have been transferred directly to commune/sangkat funds and city/srok funds in every five years. Local administration be able to allocate its own budget and make decision-align with sub-national administration-for their local development. This also promotes such constructive engagement and cooperation between citizen and local authority to better understand and comprehend each other’s needs in order to achieve common goal in their communities. Under Prakas from Ministry of Commerce in 2010, the functions in commercial affairs for issuing licenses for commerce and service operations have been delegated to targeted cities and sroks[1]

In March 2015, the Ministry of Health had sent its functions in the health sector in delivering public services of the ministry to city/srok level[2]. At the same year, Ministry of Interior also delegated the ministry functions in collecting statistics around revenues from public services to municipal and provincial Police Commissariats in lines with the capital city and provinces. One window Service, a mechanism for effective and timely delivery of public service, also has been introduced to implement some delegated administrative functions from the government and government ministries[3]

Regarding decentralization and concentration (D&D), Cambodia is under way of improving which there is a number weakness in system such as unclear reform framework, overlapping responsibilities, inconsistencies in legal and regulatory framework and so forth. Those weaknesses affect the quality of public service in all level of administration and civil service. To increase the quality of D&D implementation, ADB proposed[4] ten critical steps for Cambodia government: (i) develop clear reform policy framework, (ii) develop way to address the dysfunctional system of public administration and civil service, (iii) obtain better coordination between government of Cambodia and development partners, especially through NCDD, (iv) address gaps and inconsistencies in legal and regulatory framework, (v) clarify uncertainties  the assignment of function between tiers of government, (vi) formulate the assignment of tax and nontax revenues, (vii) design the system on intergovernmental financing, particularly system of conditional and nonconditional grants, (viii) design public financial management system at subnational level, (ix) develop stronger governance and audit systems, (x) develop capacities to implement the reforms.

Social Accountability is defined as a broad range of actions (beyond voting) that citizens, communities and CSOs can use to hold government officials and bureaucrats accountable[5]. In public sector reform-improving service delivery and relations between state and civil society, social accountability has become vital component of donor’s support since early 20002s. A range of efforts to support government bodies that encourage accountability has been attempted over the past decade. Results have been mixed at best. According to CDRI study[6]: Social Accountability in Service Delivery in Cambodia in 2015 found that the social accountability initiative examined in clean water and solid waste management had little impact on empowerment state-society relations and change in services because of project design and quality, lack of local authorities’ cooperation and the focus-project proposed by national official from local official and frontline-service. 

Nevertheless, it’s true that social accountability plays crucial role in engaging citizen to hold public officials, politicians, and service providers to account for their conduct and performance in terms of delivering services, improving people's welfare and protecting people's rights. ANSA experienced success story of social accountability implementation which there is change of public service delivery quality and problems has been solved in education sector. We can observe that number of local officials, parents, youth and local NGOs had participated in the meeting, dialogue, discussion, initiated by ANSA. There is change of working habit from public officials in which they also pay attention on seek for complains and cooperation relevant stakeholders in textbook service provision and school health. The trend seems to be more positive. World Bank[7] also had written the success story of social accountability facilitator in Kompong Chnang, which Cambodia’s Social Accountability Framework helps improving basis service in rural areas. Therefore, the use of social accountability tools will promote the good governance in democratic system, especially strengthening grassroots mobilization to check progress of public service provision and make them be more accountable for decisions.