Burma

Anti-Corruption Committee Steps Up Energy Ministry Investigation

By Htet Naing Zaw 22 July 2019

NAYPYITAW—The Myanmar Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has stepped up its corruption investigation of the Ministry of Electricity and Energy, seizing the minutes of intra-ministry meetings going back three years earlier this month.

The Irrawaddy has found that the anti-graft body searched the ministry after unsuccessfully attempting to obtain information from the Project Appraisal and Progress Reporting Department, which is overseen by the Ministry of Planning and Finance.

The ACC seized three years worth of meeting minutes, going back to 2016, when the National League for Democracy took power, but it only searched in the ministry office in Naypyitaw and not in other departments under the ministry, a ministry official told The Irrawaddy on condition of anonymity.

“It was just like a scene from a film. A car drove in and commission officials came down and took the records from the ministry. I heard that three years worth of records of executive committee meetings were seized,” the anonymous source said.

According to this source, the records cover decisions made by the minister, the deputy minister and directors-general present at the meetings.

ACC officials declined to comment as the investigation is still ongoing.

On July 9, the ACC asked the Central Bank of Myanmar for information regarding the bank accounts of the electricity minister and his deputy as well as the accounts of their wives. The following day, the Central Bank issued a notice asking private banks to submit information regarding the bank accounts of those in question within three days, drawing public attention.

U Tun Naing, the deputy minister for electricity and energy, appeared at the Union Parliament on Monday but evaded the press.

“The complaint [against them] went through us [to the ACC] recently,” said Lower House Complaint and Petition Committee Chairman U Myint Lwin. “The complaint is about a tender issue and a minister’s son watching a Manchester United match at Old Trafford. I don’t remember details. I presented the complaint to the higher ups,” he told The Irrawaddy.

The Lower House’s Electricity Supply Committee has also received complaints against the electricity ministry about issues related to electricity bills.

“The complaint was about the wrong calculation of electricity bills in Pathein and about tender issues related to electricity bills,” said committee member U Nay Myo Htet.

“Corruption has been notoriously entrenched in the ministry for a long time. The ministry has a lot of staff, but only the minister and deputy minister are appointed by the [new] government. The reform has to be done by only those two, so there are some difficulties,” he said.

Electricity and Energy Minister U Win Khine is currently on medical leave due to his ill health. Before taking charge of the ministry he gained popularity online as the Union construction minister for saying, “I would send an engineer to jail if a road didn’t last for five years.”

However, after he took the helm of the electricity ministry, he awarded contracts without inviting tender for four power supply projects worth a combined total of over US$5 billion, which the opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) raised strong objections to in Parliament last year.

Currently, Minister of the State Counselor’s Office U Kyaw Tint Swe is also leading the electricity ministry.

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