Private Firm Takes Over Responsibility for Work Permits

The Ministry of Labor passed all responsibility for foreign work permits today to E-Solutions (Cambodia) Co., leaving a multitude of unanswered questions about the private company that will process, produce and distribute the permits online.

Ministry spokesman Heng Sour declined to answer questions about the company, its ownership or why it lacked a web presence a day before it was supposed to take over the online permitting. Instead, he referred all questions to the government proclamation, or prakas, signed earlier this month that regulates the process.

Foreigners working in the country are now required to apply for permits and employment cards through fwcms.mlvt.gov.kh—a website run by E-Solutions—at a cost of $30 per permit, according to the August 17 prakas.

The site was not up as of last night.

E-Solutions will produce and send work permits and employment cards to foreign workers, and track foreign permit data on behalf of the ministry, the prakas says.

Companies have until November 30 to request a foreign staff quota and pay a $30 fee, the prakas says. Once a company’s application is approved, workers can apply for their permits and employment cards directly through the new website.

The government maintains the authority to intervene in the process.

“If necessary, the career department of the Labor Ministry can request the person who applied to appear to provide more documentation,” the prakas states.

“It’s basically the same as the previous law, but it’s just changed from direct registration to online registration,” said Mr. Sour, the ministry spokesman.

Mr. Sour said the ministry had not been involved in the government’s selection of E-Solutions to oversee the process, but did not respond to other questions about the company.

Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said the government should reveal more information about E-Solutions and ensure its accountability.

“It would be good to know the company’s identity, who is the shareholder of the company and how the company was selected to provide the services,” he said.

Sandra D’Amico, vice president of the Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations, said she welcomed the transition to online, private services, so long as they were conducted transparently.

“Many governments around the world use private sector resources to enable these kinds of initiatives,” she said. However, “clear performance indicators in terms of timing to receive documentation and complete processes” should be outlined, she said. 

Anthony Galliano, director of Cambodian Investment Management, said the shift should also address voids in the current system.

“Self-employed foreigners that are not attached to a registered company have found it very difficult to obtain a work permit, unless they attach themselves to a registered company,” he said.

This leaves foreigners like freelance consultants and artists in Cambodia without legitimate government recognition, he said.

Mr. Galliano said the change could improve the image of Cambodia among foreign investors by removing “the ambiguity” of the permit application process, though it could be a challenge to successfully transfer the work to E-Solutions, considering the “significant scope and scale of this project.”

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