Government Projects Delayed, Expensive and Poorly Planned: Report

By Thit Nay Moe 30 June 2015

RANGOON — Government infrastructure projects in Burma are rife with inflated cost projections, long delays and a lack of advance planning, according to a budget monitoring report this week.

Compiled jointly by the Institute for Peace and Social Justice, the Capacity Development Centre and the Renaissance Institute, the report monitored nearly 1,300 projects in 110 townships across the country, funded by state, divisional and Union budgets from April 2013 to March 2015.

“One of the main problems is that specific locations of some projects are not included in budget planning, which shows that governments are haphazardly planning without making necessary advance land surveys,” said Lwin Ko Latt, one of the report’s project monitors.

According to the report’s findings, there were often large discrepancies between the estimated budget outlays and equivalent private infrastructure spending, with locals left in the dark about how much money is allocated for regional projects.

“We met with contractors, who told us that [government] estimates were more than local prices,” Lwin Ko Latt said.

Despite budgets often providing for well over the equivalent cost of a private sector project, many departments had a recurrent habit of seeking additional funding for individual projects—usually over 10 percent of original budget estimates. The report said that with adequate forecasting in foreign exchange rates and essential materials, cost overruns would be at most five percent of the original budget.

“It should not be over the budget if there is no disruption, like a sudden increase in fuel prices or exchange rates,” economist Dr Aung Ko Ko told The Irrawaddy. “We can easily estimate how much a project will cost. It should not run over the budget in normal times.”

Of the projects surveyed by the report, 22 percent had yet to commence and 56 percent were still in the process of being implemented. As the report authors were not granted access to government information, monitoring did not include assessments of the capacity of public officials, auditing government accounts and checking the transparency of government tenders.