The Irrawaddy

Foundation to Return $3.6M to Irrawaddy Region Govt in Fraud Case

PATHEIN, Irrawaddy Region — The Ayeyarwady Health and Education Multi-Developments Foundation will return five billion kyats donated to it by the former Irrawaddy regional government under the instruction of the President’s Office in a case of alleged corruption and fraud.

The current regional government, after receiving instruction from the President’s Office, notified the foundation last week, and the foundation will return more than 5.2 billion kyats (US$3.6 million), U Kyi Aung, secretary of the foundation, told The Irrawaddy.

“We will act according to the instruction of the President’s Office,” he said.

U Zayar Min Thein, a lawmaker from Pyapon Constituency (1) in the Irrawaddy Region Parliament, asked the regional legislature in early 2017 if the former government had handed over regional development funds to its successor.

The regional government led by former regional chief minister Mahn Johnny investigated the case but later handed it over to the President’s Office of former President U Htin Kyaw. The President’s Office assigned the Office of the Union Auditor General to investigate the alleged fraud.

The Auditor General’s Office launched an investigation and reported to the President’s Office that the donated money should be reclaimed from the development foundation.

“We have asked the foundation to return the money by the third week of July. But they have not contacted us yet,” regional minister for planning and finance U Htay Win told The Irrawaddy.

The former regional government led by former chief minister U Thein Aung—who was also the chairman of Irrawaddy Region chapter of Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP)—ran a foundation under the name of Ayeyarwady Multi-Developments Foundation and fundraised by holding musical concerts and soliciting contributions from local businessmen.

When the regional government was about to step down after the USDP’s resounding defeat in the 2015 general elections, U Thein Aung’s administration reconstituted the foundation as the Ayeyarwady Health and Education Multi-Developments Foundation.

He then allegedly handed over the regional development funds of his administration to the foundation.

The reconstituted foundation is led by former ministers of the regional government, including U Thein Aung, who serves as patron.

The foundation said that it has lent more than 400 million kyats for rural electrification works in 20 townships in the region, invested more than 800 million kyats in joint ventures with private businessmen, and saved four billion kyats at four banks in Pathein.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.