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Illicit school finances and PETS in Cambodia

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Illicit school finances and PETS in Cambodia

21 April 2020

A review of anti-corruption efforts in Cambodia analysed the effectives of Public Expenditure Tracking Survey (PETS) that traced material and fiscal flows from the central government, through provincial treasury and the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport (MoEYS) provincial level tiers to the bank accounts of local education providers. A random survey of ten provinces found that funds at the district treasury level and at district offices matched budgetary allocations and that school accounts received the full amount due to them. In addition, school accountants knew the correct amount to which their school was entitled. The effect of this was to reduce schools’ reliance on a shadow economy of off-budget sources, generated partly from privatised tuition and bribes paid to teachers by students, which produces institutionalised corruption. Such systematic under-financing of ground-level government offices is a known driver of corruption.

However, research found that there was a wide range in values in annual school operating accounts. Some schools received as little as US$248 and some as much as US$25,833. How could schools on the lower end of allocations adequately meet quality educational outcomes? Another problem was delays in budgetary disbursement requests. Schools were entitled to receive four disbursements per year, but due to delays at the start of the year, schools often only received two larger allocations. Such delays impact the purchase of essential supplies and as schools have little to no savings, school directors sought funds from external creditors and “the community” to cover shortfalls. In this way, PETS, which are ostensibly meant to reduce corruption, inadvertently allowed an illicit economy of school finances to flourish.

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