YANGON — The Yangon regional government has misused and breached financial regulations in spending public funds, in possible violation of the Anti-Corruption Law, according to the parliamentary Finance, Planning and Economy Committee.
On the second day of parliamentary debates on the regional auditor-general’s report on government expenditure during the 2017-18 fiscal year, the committee pointed out the financial wrongdoings.
The committee’s chair, Daw Sandar Min, a National League for Democracy lawmaker, said the regional government had failed to impose a fine on Anawmar, the private business group that won a 50-year lease to renovate the historic Secretariat building, for overdue payments.
She said the group appeared to have been given special privileges. “It was contrary to the procedures and lost state revenue,” the parliamentarian added.
The audit revealed that Anawmar failed to pay its annual lease (from June 2018 to June 2019) amounting to 300 million kyats (US$204,000) to the Yangon government. The auditor-general’s report said the group only made the payment in April 2019.
According to the contract, any late payment incurs a fine of 10 percent.
Daw Sandar Min also said the Yangon government’s purchase of a 30-billion-kyat ($20.4-million), 25-megawatt trailer-mounted, dual-fuel generator with a limited tender violated a President’s Office directive to call an open tender.
The generator was bought to fulfill the city’s electricity needs during hot-season power outages. However, the auditor-general’s report said the project was too costly because the generator consumed 6,360 liters of diesel per hour.
Since its installation in July 2017, the machine operated for only five months by May 2019, but it consumed 4,200,000 liters of diesel for 3.844 billion kyats ($2.6 million).
The spending on the generator was one of the hot topics that drew heavy parliamentary criticism.
The parliamentarians denounced the regional government for violating regulations and taking rash actions without negotiating or properly considering the impact, like the cost of diesel to run the generator.
Yangon regional lawmakers have called for an explanation from the government for the loss of funds during the debates.
The parliamentary debate will continue on Thursday.
Daw Sandar Min also targeted the regional government’s improper use of cash from capital investment through the Yangon Metropolitan Development Co. Ltd (YMD) and New Yangon Development Company (NYDC).
The YMD was founded by the Yangon government in 2017 to build housing for squatters. The Yangon government owns 51 percent of the company and the 64 billion kyats spent in shares was approved by the parliament.
NYDC was launched in March 2018 as the developer in the planned new city project on the western bank of the Yangon River. The Yangon government invested 10 billion kyats ($6.8 million) in NYDC from YMD’s limited 64-billion-kyat ($43.5 million) fund without the parliament’s knowledge.
“It has found that the Yangon regional government and the Yangon City Development Committee lost public funds by misusing and breaching rules in spending public funds,” Daw Sandar Min said.
She added that the committee found the regional government had breached the regulations to favor a certain group or person.
According to Article 3 of the Anti-Corruption Law, loss of public funds and state property can be prosecuted under corruption charges.
In September, the general manager of the Burma Pharmaceutical Industry (BPI), a state-owned drugs manufacturer in Insein, Yangon, was arrested under corruption charges for allegedly accepting low-quality raw materials. This was deemed to have breached the company’s tender agreement and was seen as responsible for the loss of state funds.
“We need to take examples from the case of BPI’s Dr. Aung Zaw,” Daw Sandar Min said.
There have been requests to investigate the loss of public funds and irregularities in spending by the Yangon regional government exposed in the auditor-general’s report, including the 2016-17 auditor’s report.
But no action has been reported against any government officials for misusing public funds.
President U Win Myint has repeatedly threatened legal action against anyone responsible for the misappropriation and loss of public funds.
He urged the authorities to strictly adhere to President’s Office rules while awarding contracts.
U Win Myint called on people and lawmakers to look out for the waste of public money, vowing that he would not defend corrupt officials.