President Warns of Legal Action For Loss of Public Funds

By San Yamin Aung 29 October 2018

YANGON — President U Win Myint repeatedly warned that legal action would be taken against anyone responsible for the misappropriation and loss of public funds during his visit to Irrawaddy Region over the weekend.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of Shwethaungyan Bridge on Sunday, the president said cooperation was needed from local people and relevant authorities to prevent the waste of public funds in the construction of roads and bridges and other government projects.

He urged authorities to strictly adhere to tender rules and regulation laid out by the President’s Office when awarding contracts.

“I would like to emphasize here that if there is any misuse of public funds, the government will take legal action as per the law without discrimination,” U Win Myint said.

He also stressed the importance of quality control in the construction of roads and bridges while warning that those responsible for a project will be liable in cases of avoidable failures that hurt the public.

In April, the Myaungmya suspension bridge linking Irrawaddy’s Myaungmya and Labutta townships with the regional capital, Pathein, collapsed and killed two people who were in a truck crossing it at the time. The Ministry of Construction released a statement a few days later saying that the bridge, inaugurated in 1996, collapsed because of a design flaw.

“If there is no waste in the budget, the surplus can be used to build more bridges. I’d like to urge the people and lawmakers to keep a watch out for waste,” the president said on Saturday at the launch of the Ngawun Bridge No. 2 project in Pathein.

“If there are complaints from the local community, we won’t discriminate [in favor of government officials]. We won’t cover them up,” he said.

A recent report by the Yangon auditor general revealed that the local government lost out on billions of kyats in revenue over recent years, drawing heavy criticism from the public. The Anti-Corruption Commission was asked to investigate the losses revealed by the audit. Local lawmakers and lawyers have also called accountability from the responsible government officials.

Daw Thandar, a Lower House lawmaker representing Irrawaddy’s Eainme Township, told The Irrawaddy that she welcomed the president’s warnings over the weekend.

She said there was a great deal of opacity in the awarding of public projects in the region despite tender rules requiring transparency and insisted that those rules now had to be put to practice.

U Soe Win, a member in the Irrawaddy Region Parliament representing Pathein, said the president’s call for vigilance from lawmakers had encouraged him to keep a closer watch over government agencies.

During his weekend trip, U Win Myint also reminded the regional government that ministerial posts were not meant to enrich the office holder but to serve the people.

“You are appointed to this position to demonstrate your capacity, not to enjoy and indulge in the entitlements and emoluments that accompany it and do nothing else. You are appointed to display your caliber. You must bear this in mind,” he said.

Additional reporting by Salai Thant Zin from Irrawaddy Region.