28 Tax Revenue Officials Implicated in Corruption Case

By Htet Naing Zaw 18 July 2013

RANGOON — Fourteen officials at the Finance Ministry’s Internal Revenue Department (IRD) have been dismissed for taking bribes, while another 14 are expected to be punished soon, according to government sources.

Five deputy-directors and five officials in charge of different branches of the IRD’s Rangoon Division, three deputy-directors from the IRD Mandalay Division and one deputy-director from the IRD in the Mon State capital Moulmein were sacked on corruption charges, a senior IRD official in the capital Naypyidaw told The Irrawaddy.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said another 14 senior IRD officials — including several deputy directors and other high-ranking officials — are under investigation and will soon be punished on graft charges. Seven of the officials have already been transferred to other departments and two have been asked to resign.

The senior IRD officials will, however, escape criminal charges of bribery, according to an officer with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Rangoon’s Insein Township.

“This case wasn’t transferred to the Criminal Investigation Department and Naypyidaw took direct control of it,” said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The CID is a special department of Burma’s Police Force.

“It has yet to be decided exactly which organization is responsible for investigating tax-related cases in the future,” he added.

The CID officer said tax officials were often approached by businessmen who attempt to bribe and negotiate with them in order to evade taxes or to lower their tax bills.

An investigation into the dismissed officials’ activities was started after low-ranking IRD officials sent a complaint to Naypyidaw alleging that their bosses were taking kickbacks from businessmen.

Than Lwin, vice-chairman of privately-owned Kanbawza Bank and an advisor to the Finance Ministry, said he welcomed the measures as it was well-known that many IRD employees were taking bribes. He added nonetheless, that the officials should face criminal charges in court.

“The state has earned less revenue due to such negotiations and bribery practices,” said Than Lwin. “To solve this problem, we have to start from the top. It is good that the [Finance Ministry] now listens to experts about how to tackle the problem.”

Burma’s government is planning to drastically reform its ineffective tax system. The recently formed Board of Scrutinizing and Monitoring of Tax Collection is currently reviewing the tax system to offer suggestions on how to end widespread corruption and tax evasion.

There have been several corruption cases involving dozens officials in the past year.

In June 2012, five employees from the Ministry of Commerce, 33 from the Finance Ministry’s Customs Department and five from the Rangoon Port Authority were either dismissed, suspended or transferred because of their involvement in illegal import of unregistered vehicles from different ports.

In another case in February this year, 16 customs officers were forced to resign following an investigation that found them guilty of accepting bribes to allow the import of restricted vehicles at a port in Rangoon.