MPs Probe $20k Budget for Retired Generals

By Khin Oo Tha 27 November 2012

Burma’s next session of Parliament will investigate whether a 16.9 million kyat ($20,000) extra budget allocation for 70 retired military officers including Snr-Gen Than Shwe and Vice-Snr-Gen Maung Aye was legal.

MPs have joined observers in criticizing the decision which was passed last week without significant scrutiny in the legislature.

Burma’s Union Parliament approved the additional budget, which was proposed by the Construction Ministry’s Department of Human Settlement and Housing Development, on Nov. 23 to offer 400 domestic staff to cook, clean and maintain the gardens for 70 retired military officers.

MPs told The Irrawaddy that they will hopefully be able to discuss the issue when the fifth session of Parliament begins in January, adding that the details were not publicized at the time of the request being approved.

“We need to discuss this issue in Parliament—whether it is compatible with the rule of law or not,” said Win Htein, an Lower House MP for the main opposition National League for Democracy party. “But I cannot discuss this issue alone. We need to hold a meeting about this with our party’s members.”

Phone Myint Aung, an Upper House MP for the New National Democracy, said, “I feel it is a little strange to approve the budget as no one discussed it in Parliament.

“No MPs could read or discuss it because we just found out after it was already approved. Usually, all proposed budgets need to pass by MPs for discussion before being approved.

“[The Department of Human Settlement and Housing Development] hid this budget request with their other additional budget requests. They should not do this and should be made clear in order to let all people know about it,” he added.

Dr. Aye Maung, a Upper House MP and chairman of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, said, “We paid a lot of attention to the issues of Arakan and this is why we paid less attention on this.

“We need to discuss this issue in the next round of Parliament because the people have to pay for this budget request. We even need to question this budget.”

According to 2008 Constitution, retired government ministers are not provided with a budget except for the president and vice-presidents. MPs did not notice the request for retired generals because they thought it was just an additional budget for these posts, said Aye Maung.

Some observers said that former junta supremo Than Shwe still has influence over the new quasi-civilian government and so MPs neglected to highlight this case.

“Those retired generals may not propose it by themselves but some people may think that they should support them and so do so on their behalf,” said Khine Maung Yee, an Upper House MP for the National Democratic Force.

Observers have criticized lawmakers by saying that they have a duty to carefully read every detail of every proposal in order that such oversights do not happen again in the future; if not, people will have less trust in the government.

The 70 retired military officers include former military generals, ministers and even some ministers who currently serve in the present government.