15 Ministries Guilty of $70m Graft: Govt Report

By Nyein Nyein 15 November 2012

Nearly half of Burma’s ministries misused almost 60 billion kyat (US $70 million) in the last fiscal year, Auditor-General Thein Htike told a session of the Union Parliamentary on Wednesday.

One-third of the funds has since been returned, said the report, with many of the involved staff members already punished for their role. Two of the worst performing and least funded ministries—health and education—were among those accused, but the Ministry of Defense budget was deemed above-board.

“The action being taken is just moving the staff from one place to another,” said Phone Myint Aung, an Upper House MP for the New National Democracy Party. The total misuse across 15 ministries took place in the 2011-12 fiscal year under the budget allowance set by the former military government, according to the report.

Those involved were the ministries of Livestock and Fisheries, Agriculture and Irrigation, Electricity, Education, Health, Science and Technology, Information, Industry, Commerce, Forestry, Finance and Revenue, Hotels and Tourism, Communication, Information and Technology, Rail Transportation, and Cooperatives.

MPs debating next year’s budget heard the revelation during Wednesday’s parliamentary session. They complained that legal action has mostly been taken against lower level staff, but the auditor-general responded by warning the heads of the relative ministries to also expect punitive action.

The Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries has to pay back 35 billion kyat ($40 million) of the total outstanding debt, while the other 14 involved have to cover the remaining five billion kyat ($6 million) between them, said Thein Htike, who became auditor-general in September and was previously Minister of Mining.

Corruption by staff in the ministries amounted to 140 million kyat ($160,000) in total—120 million kyat ($140,000) solely by the Information Ministry.

Due to time constraints, MPs spent most of Wednesday’s session listening to the auditor-general’s report, but said that more time will be taken to properly discuss the matter. Lawmakers will also review the budget allocation for 2012-13 and important projects in the next session. The Ministry of Industry has requested an increase in funding.

The budget debate will resume in the next Union Parliament session which is due to meet again on Friday, said Ba Shein, a lawyer and Lower House MP for the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party who sits on the Bill Committee.