Military MPs Urge Myanmar Govt: Improve Accountability, Don’t Waste Public Funds

By Htet Naing Zaw 18 February 2020

NAYPYITAW—Military lawmakers urged the National League for Democracy (NLD) government to establish an administrative mechanism to best serve the public interest with a minimum waste of public funds as they joined a parliamentary debate on the findings of the Union Auditor-General’s Office.

In a session on Monday, the Union Parliament discussed findings from the Joint Public Accounts Committee on the report by the Union Auditor-General’s Office for the six-month period from April to September 2018.

Military lawmakers pointed to a number of cases as evidence of mismanagement. They highlighted how the Ministry of Transport and Communications has still been unable to provide records for the 10,000 gallons (37,850 liters) of fuel it bought with government funds in the 2013-14 fiscal year. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation purchased several dozen computers but has kept them in its headquarters and not distributed them to its departments. Similarly, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation cut down some 15,000 tons of teak wood between 2013 and 2017 and reportedly left it sitting unused and unsold.

Military lawmakers also raised objections to the fact that the Food and Drug Administration has not set a deadline for receiving automobiles it purchased from a private company, despite having paid a 30 percent advance to the company within one week of signing the deal, a violation of official procedures.

In Monday’s parliamentary debate, Upper House military lawmaker Colonel Nyunt Win Aung said the government is obliged to manage the public funds.

“It should be responsible and accountable for the results of its actions,” he said during the debate.

Another military lawmaker, Major Pyae Tun, called for stringent audits of government spending as mandated by law.

“If the auditors do not audit strictly, the departments audited will not pay heed. If the auditors audit loosely, the departments audited will be neglectful,” he told Parliament.

Military lawmakers urged government agencies to heed the findings and recommendations of the Auditor-General’s Office and prevent corruption in order to minimize the waste of public funds.

Civilian lawmakers said that the military parliamentarians’ criticisms were one-sided.

Lower House NLD lawmaker U Khin Cho said that while military lawmakers criticize weaknesses of government agencies, civilian lawmakers are not allowed to audit or even discuss the accounts of departments and agencies under the military.

“The report of the auditor-general includes nothing about the military. So, we have nothing to discuss,” said U Khin Cho, also a member of the Joint Public Accounts Committee.

The Union Auditor-General Law enacted in 2010 when the ex-military regime was in power states that “provisions of the law shall not affect the Ministry of Defense,” meaning that only the military’s own auditor-general is allowed to audit the accounts of the military.

“The civilian auditor-general can only check the summarized audit report of the military auditor-general. Basically he has no say over the report,” said U Khin Cho, who represents Hlaingbwe Township in Karen State. “If the military lawmakers participate in discussions on the country’s affairs constructively, we will accept their discussion. But if they discuss it pessimistically, we will object.”

Military lawmakers, in response to the report of the Joint Public Accounts Committee, suggested that the committee look into whether the relevant departments implement the recommendations of the Union Auditor-General’s Office, and report back to the Parliament.

Military lawmakers also drew attention to other cases of mismanagement. They pointed out that the Magwe Region Education Office paid two companies for construction in fiscal year 2016-17 but the projects were not finished in time. The Education Ministry is now obliged to claim some 34 million kyats (US$23,500) from the company for the unfinished works but the ministry says it has been unable to contact the company, showing a lack of responsibility and accountability, according to military lawmakers.

Military lawmakers also suggested filing lawsuits against private airlines Air Mandalay and Air Asia Wing over 90 million kyats of unpaid passenger service fees that the companies owe the Civil Aviation Department.

The lawmakers also highlighted the actions of the Union Civil Service Board (UCSB), a government agency responsible for training civil servants. The UCSB reportedly did not invite tenders to select an international university to provide master’s degree training in public administration to civil servants in Myanmar. Furthermore, the university that the UCSB selected to provide online training was later found to be a fake university. Meanwhile, the UCSB also violated financial regulations by failing to return unused funds to the Union government for two fiscal years. Military lawmakers said the actions constituted professional misconduct.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko