16 Customs Officers Forced to Resign over Corruption

By Tha Lun Zaung Htet 14 February 2013

RANGOON — Sixteen employees of Burma’s Customs Department have been forced to resign for taking bribes, according to official sources.

Following an inquiry by the Bureau of Special Investigation, the customs personnel were found guilty of accepting bribes to allow the import of restricted vehicles, the sources said. The investigation reportedly began last October in response to a letter of complaint received by the Ministry of Commerce.

According to a Customs Department statement dated Feb. 5, the 16 employees, including two deputy-directors and two supervisors, were sacked for violating the department’s rules and regulations.

“They received that punishment because they were found guilty,” an official from the Ministry of Finance and Revenue, which oversees the Customs Department, told The Irrawaddy.

Similar action was taken in June of last year, when 43 officials—five from the Ministry of Commerce, 33 from the Customs Department and five from the Port Authority—were either dismissed or suspended from their positions for their involvement in the import of vehicles without registration.

A customs officer told The Irrawaddy that corruption is widespread at different levels of the Customs Department due to a lack of transparency. Those who are punished are usually lower-level officials, while those in senior positions, who accept far larger bribes, enjoy complete impunity, he said.

“There are many forms of corruption, and if the government really wanted to tackle it, there are a lot of other people they could punish,” said the officer, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The government recently took action against former Minister of Communications and Information Technology Thein Htun and other senior communications officials, but made no official statement about the case. Observers say this was probably to avoid revealing previous corruption cases under the former military regime.

Some Rangoon-based economists have given the government’s anti-corruption drive poor marks, saying that it is unlikely to succeed because it lacks transparency.