The Irrawaddy

Discrepancies Found in Audit of Mandalay Development Fund

MANDALAY — There are discrepancies regarding Mandalay’s development fund under the previous regional government that are only being found two years later, said Mandalay’s chief minister on Thursday.

A regional auditor general’s office discovered that clear reports were missing for more than 3 billion kyats (US$2.1 million) that were used for education, rural development, communication and rehabilitation projects.

“There were differences or unclear statements under 10 of the fund’s sections during the former administration,” said Mandalay Chief Minister Dr. Zaw Myint Maung during a press conference in Mandalay on Thursday where the current regional government explained the work done in the past two years in office.

The audit report was dated June 2017 and covered the use of the development fund from 2012 to 2016, which was handled by the previous government.

“Some amount needs to be returned to the government while in some sections, there are no financial statements whatsoever,” said the chief minister.

“Since this money belongs to the nation and its citizens, it should not be neglected or misused. Those responsible must take care of this and explain how these funds were used,” he added.

The chief minister said he sent a notice to the responsible department but he did not mention what action would be taken if those accountable failed to respond.

At the press conference, the regional government also explained that rural development in Mandalay Region has been successful, as the government has built schools and clinics and carried out electrification projects effectively.

He added that business development has also improved, with 62 foreign investments at the regional level and 154 at the local level recorded in 2018.

On the other hand, the chief minister said there are still challenges as the government is limited by the 2008 Constitution, referring to its ability to return confiscated land to the rightful owners.

According to the regional government, more than 4,300 acres of confiscated land were already returned to the proper owners, while some 9,000 acres were under consideration and should be returned by the end of this year.

“Our biggest challenge is confiscated land. Some land cannot be returned to the rightful owners, as there are problems proving ownership,” explained the chief minister.

Farmers have criticized the regional government for its failure to return confiscated lands. Some farmers attempted to plow their seized lands and were then sued for trespassing under the current administration.

Apart from the land issue, the regional security and border affair minister said there are also issues with fighting drugs.

“Since our president is putting his efforts toward eliminating drug abuse, we are boosting our forces and changing our tactics to arrest and take legal action against drug dealers,” said Colonel Kyaw Kyaw Min, the regional security and border affairs minister.

From 2017 to March 2018, some 265 million kyats worth of heroin, opium and other drugs were seized and more than 400 drug cases were reported.