Irrawaddy Gov’t to Sue Foundation to Reclaim Missing 1.8 Billion Kyats

By Salai Thant Zin 24 April 2019

PATHEIN, Irrawaddy Region—The Irrawaddy regional government is planning to sue a local foundation, led by ministers of the previous government, that failed to fully comply with an order to return missing development funds.

The Ayeyarwady Health and Education Multi-Developments Foundation, previously known as the Ayeyarwady Multi-Developments Foundation, was ordered by the regional government to return a total of 5.2 billion kyats that former Irrawaddy Region Chief Minister U Thein Aung allegedly transferred to the foundation before handing power to the new administration in early 2016.

The previous administration raised development funds by organizing concerts and soliciting contributions from local businesses.

The foundation last November returned some 3.4 billion kyats to the current government, and has yet to return nearly 1.8 billion kyats, regional officials said.

“We have given them enough time to return the money. We will sue the responsible persons of the foundation within a few days, and we have sought legal advice,” Irrawaddy Regional Minister for Planning and Finance U Htay Win told The Irrawaddy.

The investigation into the missing funds started after U Zayar Min Thein, a lawmaker representing Pyapon (1) constituency in the local legislature, asked the Irrawaddy Parliament in 2016 whether the previous administration had handed over the regional development funds to the new government.

On instructions from the President’s Office, the Auditor General’s Office carried out an investigation and reported back that the funds should be reclaimed from the foundation.

The Auditor General’s Office discovered that the foundation had deposited nearly 4 billion kyats with private banks, invested around 400 million kyats in joint ventures with three private companies, and lent nearly 1 billion kyats for 28 regional development projects.

The President’s Office then instructed the current regional government to reclaim the funds. The foundation offered to provide records of the savings accounts, accounts receivable and loan contracts, but the current administration insisted that the funds be returned in cash.

U Kyi Aung, secretary of the foundation, said when the Ayeyarwady Multi-Developments Foundation assumed its current form, it was only given cash and accounts receivable.

“So, we can only give back cash and accounts receivable. If they sue us, we will face it. What else can we do?” said U Kyi Aung.

While the regional government says the foundation still has to return nearly 1.8 billion kyats, the foundation says the outstanding amount is only 1.6 billion kyats—800 million kyats of which it lent to businessmen, and another 800 million kyats of which it spent on rural electrification and regional development works.

Irrawaddy Regional Minister for Electricity, Industry and Transportation U Win Htay said 3.4 billion kyats returned to the current government will be used to upgrade bridges in the region in fiscal 2019-20.

“We will upgrade 34 bamboo bridges into permanent structures in fiscal 2019-20,” the minister said.