YANGON — The Magwe Region chief minister has said that the regional auditor-general’s office is examining the use of 4 billion kyats (US$2.9 million) of a missing 7.459 billion kyats ($5.5 million) in regional development funds, to find out whether it was really allocated for development projects.
The money was made up of tax revenue collected from small-scale crude oil producers and earmarked for regional development projects under the previous government, but it turned out to have disappeared during the term of the former chief minister U Phone Maw Shwe.
It was found out that 1.7 billion kyats were spent on the former ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and 1.57 billion kyats were designated for the lending firm Shwe Thukha, while the remaining 4.189 billion kyats was said to have been used for local development projects.
Dr. Aung Moe Nyo, the Magwe Region chief minister, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the ex-chief minister returned 3.27 billion kyats—the money used on the USDP and Shwe Thukha—starting from May this year, after he had been asked to pay back the embezzled funds by the end of July.
“He gave back the remaining 570 million kyats on Monday,” the chief minister said, but the Union-level auditor-general instructed the divisional auditor-general’s office to continue to investigate the use of the 4.189 billion kyats which it had been claimed were allocated for development.
The embezzlement investigation was launched after Lower House lawmaker U Tun Tun of Magwe’s Pwintbyu Township asked the Parliament about the missing regional development funds.
U Tun Tun said he was surprised to find out that the actual missing funds totaled around 7.5 billion kyats, when at first, it was alleged that 2.8 billion kyats had been embezzled.
“I am happy, as we got back the missing public funds which should have been used for development projects,” he said.
“If it was used really for regional development, it would have built new schools, dispensaries, roads and provided electricity for some areas,” U Tun Tun said.
Chief minister Dr. Aung Moe Nyo said they haven’t yet decided how the returned 3.27 billion kyats will be used, as the budget for this fiscal year has already been approved.
“We might use it when we need a bigger budget for repairing roads or for regional development projects. But all will be in accordance with the regulations and with the approval of the Union government,” he explained.
He said the regional government had also levied 3,000 kyats per barrel of crude oil from small-scale producers starting from June 2016. It has collected about 2 billion kyats, some of which is allocated toward buying necessary vehicles for the repair of the roads in the region.
The lending firm Shwe Thukha loaned the money to those close to them with interest, U Tun Tun Tun said. But the interest that they had collected was not included in the return.
“Some were even saying that they would embezzle public funds, collect the interest that they get from loaning it or from putting it in banks, and then return it when it was found out,” U Tun Tun said.
The lawmaker urged other states and division to dig into similar accusations of embezzlement, even if they are not able to take legal action because of the government’s policy of “no retrospection,” but that they could at least get their public funds back.