Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cambodia's 'Express Service' driving license law

'Express service' skirts new driving license law

By Cheang Sokha

The drivers license process adopted in February requiring car drivers to attend driving school and pass a test in order to get a Cambodian driving license has flunked the test - the corruption test.

According to interviews with drivers and officials, the Post has found that for an extra $100 or so, people in a hurry can skip the driving classes and road tests and go directly to the drivers seat.

An instructor at Mittapheap driving school in Phnom Penh explained that the normal cost of getting a driving license is $65, including $40 for driving school and $25 for document preparation. The driving school offers 20 days of practice driving in the school's car, and test preparation. Once you pass, three to four weeks later the license arrives.

But an official at the general department of transport at Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT) who deals with issuing licenses said in an interview that he has issued many driving licenses to drivers who had not enrolled in driving schools. They paid $220 or $250 for a license, he said.

"They do not need to come. Just give us a photo and money and that's all. We arrange everything," he said.

Who gets the $250?

"The money is to share with the driving testing committee and driving instructors," he said.

He said although you can no longer get a license without taking a test in Phnom Penh, you can get one easily in the provincial offices.

"Don't worry, just pay the testing committee and you will pass automatically," he said. "It is not a kind of corruption, but is for clients who want it the fast and short way."

Keo Savin, director of the land transport department at MPWT did not dispute that officials have been taking such bribes, but he said this week that kind of activity is now banned.

"I recognized it happened previously, but not by all officials," Savin said. "It's a person acting in private, but it is not a huge problem."

Chum Iek, secretary of state at MPWT, also confirmed that paying bribes was common.

"I have told the testing committee not to take bribes during the testing because those drivers will have problems in the future if they passed without knowing how to drive," said Iek. "If I get a complaint about bribes, the officials will be punished."

Some drivers told the Post that getting a license ended up costing much more than $65 because they failed their tests.

Chan Koeun, 32, failed twice, but he suspects his failing grades were just a ploy by the school to make more money.

"I saw everybody getting a false test result the same as me," Koeun said. "Normally we have to retest and pay more money. The result came out from the mouth of controller."

Chan Koeun ended up spending about $120 for his license.

An employee at the Mittepheap driving school said bad driving was the reason for bad test scores and that students are not supposed to pay extra for taking the test more than once.

"Some students passed the test in just one time, but normally the students must take the test two or three times before they pass," she said. "There is no additional money requirement."

She said more and more people are coming to take driving lessons in order to comply with the new law.

Another instructor, who was training students in front of Wat Botum, explained that most students, unless they have a car at home to practice driving, will fail the driving test.

"Practicing a half hour for 20 days is not enough," he said. "I'm not aware how much the students pay to the testing committee to pass the test as it is confidential, but I heard it does happen."

MPWT's Savin said although there are about one million motor vehicles on the roads, just 305,232 driving licenses have been issued.

He said from 1990 until July 2007, 188,032 cars and 802,144 motorbikes have registered in the ministry. The number of cars and motorbikes increases significantly from year to year and about 10 percent of cars have not yet registered, he said.


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