Burma

Anti-Corruption Commission Rejects Request to Probe Yangon Govt Losses

By San Yamin Aung 22 October 2018

YANGON — The Anti-Corruption Commission said it will not take up a complaint about the billions of kyats worth of revenue the Yangon Region government lost out on over several years according to a recent report by the local Auditor General’s Office.

Former Yangon Region lawmaker Daw Nyo Nyo Thin, founder of Yangon Watch, an independent monitor of the government’s performance, filed the complaint with the commission on Oct. 12 calling for an investigation into the losses revealed by the audit of the region’s 2016-17 fiscal year budget.

Responding to the complaint, the commission said on Saturday that there was no need for it to investigate the losses yet because the government and auditor general will still working through the procedures that must follow the release of any audit report. It also pointed out that the incidents listed in the complaint predate Article 3 a (2) of the Anti-Corruption Law, which the complaint cites but only took effect in July when the law was amended.

According to the rules of the Union Auditor General’s Office, the Yangon government is required to respond to the audit findings within a “reasonable” period of time — to be set by the auditor general — and take immediate steps to stop any fraud, misappropriation, waste or losses brought to light by an audit, including any appropriate legal action.

The commission also said that it had learned that the Yangon auditor general would monitor the government’s adherence to the procedures closely.

But the commission’s decision has drawn mixed reactions.

Daw Nyo Nyo Thin, who filed the complaint, welcomed the commission’s quick response and said she was encouraged to hear that the government was obliged to act on the auditor general’s findings.

But she said she disagreed with the commission’s interpretation of the law — that it won’t take action because the incidents occurred before Article 3 a (2) took effect. She had picked out five of the many findings in the auditor general’s report, under both the previous and current administrations, that she believed made the strongest cases for investigation.

Lawyer U Kyee Myint, a member of the Myanmar Lawyer’s Network, said that if the incidents occurred before Article 3 a (2) took effect the commission could still take action using the law as it was before it was amended.

“Indeed, they should proceed with an investigation into the complaint,” he said.

The report, submitted to the Yangon Parliament in September, has sparked heated discussion among local lawmakers. More than two dozen of them went through the findings in Parliament, raising questions about the irregularities and billions of kyats in public funds it said the government had lost out on.

But not a single government minister agreed to attend Parliament to discuss the findings.

“We thought the government would respond to the lawmakers’ discussions and explain how it would take action on the findings. But it didn’t,” said Ko Nay Phone Latt, a regional lawmaker with the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD).

He said that in light of the commission’s announcement on Saturday the lawmakers would continue to push the government for accountability.

Regional lawmaker U Kyaw Zeya, also with the NLD, said legislators would monitor the government’s response to the report carefully.

He said if the government fails to take the necessary action, the Union Attorney General’s Office could order the Yangon Auditor General’s Office to investigate further or conduct its own probe. Lawmakers could ask the local auditor general to investigate further as well.

“If we submit that proposal, I am sure it would be passed with a majority of votes in Parliament,” he said.

U Kyee Myint said the government should inform the public of any action it was taking to address the report’s findings over the course of no more than six months. If it fails, he said the lawyers would join with civil society groups in filing another complaint against the government with the Anti-Corruption Commission.

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