Irrawaddy Division Ex-Cabinet Denies Embezzlement Allegations

By Salai Thant Zin 9 May 2017

PATHEIN, Irrawaddy Division — Amid allegations of misappropriation of regional development funds, the former Irrawaddy Division government has said that it gave the missing money to a regional development foundation.

“We ran an all-round development foundation under the former divisional government. And we donated a suitable amount of money to it when we retired,” U Win Ko Ko, the ex-finance minister for the Irrawaddy Division government, told The Irrawaddy.

However, the ex-minister denied the new government’s allegation that the missing funds amounted to 7 billion kyats. The Ayeyarwady Multi-Developments Foundation, also known as Ayeyarwady Education and Health Multi-Developments Foundation, will also hold a press conference about the donations, he said.

“It was not seven billion kyats like they [the new government] said. The amount was not that much. We have asked [the foundation] to do the accounts. Ayeyarwady Health and Education Foundation will also hold a press conference about it,” he said.

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

Social affairs minister Dr. Hla Myat Thway of the Irrawaddy Division government replied that the former government had not transferred the money, and that the new government would ask the division’s auditor-general to investigate.

“We are making an investigation into the regional development funds in response to the question [put forward] at the parliament. And we will take actions according to the investigation results. So far, we can say nothing,” said Irrawaddy Division’s transport and finance minister U Win Htay.

The former divisional government led by chief minister U Thein Aung—who was also the chairman of Irrawaddy Division 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.

“Under [former] chief minister U Thein Aung, businessmen had to pay a tax of 30 million kyats (US$22,000) to the government to get a riverbank gravel extraction license, and had to donate an additional 30 million kyats to their foundation. So, we had to pay 60 million kyats ($44,000) in total for a license,” said a gravel producer from Myanaung Township, on the condition of anonymity.

When the regional government was about to step down after the USDP’s resounding defeat in 2015 general elections, U Thein Aung’s administration reconstituted the foundation as Ayeyarwady Health and Education Multi-Developments Foundation. He then allegedly handed over the funds from the old foundation to the new one.

The reconstituted foundation is led by former ministers of the divisional government, including U Thein Aung, who serve as patrons. U Thein Aung also attended the opening of the reconstituted foundation in June last year.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko