Anti-Corruption Commission Encourages Public to File Complaints

By Htet Naing Zaw 8 January 2018

NAYPYITAW — Members of the public can complain, but with clear evidence, about civil servants who are wealthier than their pay scale would warrant, said Anti-Corruption Commission spokesperson U Han Nyunt.

The spokesperson urged the public to file complaints, but reminded them that adequate evidence was needed for action to be taken against corrupt officials and also to protect plaintiffs from a countersuit.

“If directors-general and directors take bribes, concerned ministers can take action against them. If ministers are corrupt, the president can directly take action,” U Han Nyunt told reporters during the commission’s press conference in Naypyitaw last week.

“If a director-general has become extremely rich, the minister must take action. If the minister doesn’t take action, a complaint can be filed. But the complaint can’t be sent anonymously,” he added.

Under the current Anti-Corruption Law, the commission tasked with fighting graft is not authorized to take action against corrupt officials unless someone files a complaint. The commission will propose that Parliament amend the law so that it can use its discretion to punish corrupt officials.

U Aung Kyi, the ex-general and information minister in U Thein Sein’s administration, is taking charge of the anti-corruption commission, which was reconstituted in November by the National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government.

The Orchid Hotel in Yangon filed a complaint with the former commission led by U Mya Win against a department head of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism for demanding 10 million kyats (US$7,500) grease money from the hotel, but to no avail, said hotel owner U Htay Aung.

“We were told that our evidence was not adequate and the investigation has been delayed. And we are being troubled by that official. So, we plan to file a complaint again,” U Htay Aung told The Irrawaddy.

Director-general of the Anti-Corruption Commission U Htin Kyaw said that dozens of corrupt directors-general, rectors, directors and police officers were punished under the 2013 Anti-Corruption Law since the commission was formed in 2014.

He also admitted that the commission failed to properly inform the public regarding punishment of corrupt officials.

Ranks below permanent secretaries in ministries including directors-general are not required by law to disclose their possessions, but ministers, deputy ministers and similar ranks have to disclose their possessions to the President’s Office, said U Han Nyunt.

“I had to disclose my possessions after I became a member of the Anti-Corruption Commission. Even the [former president] had to disclose his possessions to parliamentary speakers in a sealed letter,” he said.

Former lawmaker U Ye Htun stressed the importance of providing compelling evidence in filing complaints as plaintiffs can be counter-accused of defamation if evidence is inadequate.

The commission currently has 392 complaints to handle including complaints against judges, said U Han Nyunt. Complaints primarily involve corruption and land disputes.

“We have also tried to take action against corrupt judges. But there are many cases in which they fled just before we investigated them,” he said.

As its first step to root out bribery and corruption in the country, the commission will cooperate with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to organize a paper reading session on fighting corruption in Yangon from Jan. 22-23.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.