Former Myanmar State, Regional Govts Have Yet to Return More Than 3 Billion Kyats in Misspent Funds

By Thiha Lwin 9 June 2020

NAYPYITAW—Officials from former regional and state governments under U Thein Sein’s administration have yet to return over 3 billion kyats (US$2.14 million at today’s rate) they are accused of misappropriating while in office, according to the Office of the Auditor-General of the Union (OAG).

In 2018 the OAG, by this time under the National League for Democracy (NLD) government, audited development funds spent by regional and state governments during U Thein Sein’s term as president and found that some of the money had been used unlawfully.

The Auditor-General’s Office examined the use of development funds by former governments in all regions and states as well as the Naypyitaw Union Territory at the instruction of the President’s Office following a scandal involving the embezzlement of regional development funds by former Magwe Region chief minister U Phone Maw Shwe.

In cases where funds could not be accounted for, the President’s Office ordered officials from the former regional and state governments to return the money. Some members of the erstwhile administrations, including those from the previous Ayeyarwady regional government, returned the missing funds.

However, a total of over 3 billion kyats misappropriated by the former administrations of Karen and Shan states and Yangon and Mandalay regions have yet to be returned.

“They have not yet fully repaid. The President’s Office has continuously examined it. It has asked us to update it on the latest situation. We are preparing to submit a report to the President’s Office,” said OAG permanent secretary Daw Naing Thet Oo.

The former Karen State government has yet to return 1,509.577 million kyats it lent to 45 individuals and organizations. The former Shan State government has yet to return 16.5 million kyats it should have received in rent on land leased out to a power project.

The former Yangon regional government has yet to return 1,322.601 million kyats it said it loaned to gem merchants, and the Mandalay regional government has yet to return 322 million kyats it said it loaned for an electrification project.

The OAG has instructed the relevant regional and state audit offices to submit reports by Monday. It will then report to the President’s Office, said the deputy director general of the office, Daw Khin Khin Thi.

Dr. Nanda Hla Myint, a spokesman for the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which was the ruling party at the time of the inappropriate fund use, said the missing money has nothing to do with the USDP itself because it was used to implement projects for which the new government assumed responsibility at the time it took power.

“There is money flowing in and out and projects to implement whenever there is a transfer of power to a new government. And that’s the basis on which new governments should proceed. It has nothing to do with the [USDP]. That’s how government works,” Dr. Nanda Hla Myint said.

The amount of missing regional development funds was highest in Magwe and Ayeyarwady regions, amounting to 4.7 billion kyats in Magwe and some 5.2 billion kyats in Ayeyarwady. Officials from both of those former governments returned the funds.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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