Cabinet ministers and public officials appointed by President Thein Sein have finally submitted details of their financial assets and interests but the information is likely to remain sealed from public view, according to the President’s Office.
During the last week of July, Thein Sein ordered public officials to disclose all of their movable and immovable assets and interests no later than Aug. 1 in accordance with the Union Governance Law. However, this date was later extended to Aug. 20 to give more opportunity for compliance.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday, Maj Zaw Htay, the director-general of the President’s Office, said, “The sealed list of the assets by each [minister, attorney-general, auditor-general, etc.] has been sent directly to the president.”
The declaration process for prominent politicians has received public attention recently as only the president and two vice-presidents must declare their assets to the Parliament according to the widely-condemned 2008 Constitution.
Article 68 of the document states: “The president and vice-president shall furnish a list of family assets under his direction; namely land, houses, buildings, businesses, savings and other valuables together with their values to the head of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw [Union Parliament].”
The submission of the sealed list of presidential appointees comes just two weeks after a proposal to declare the assets of all public officials was shot down in Parliament.
MPs were told by the auditor-general that further legislation was unnecessary as Article 101 of the Union Government Law was already adequate. It states: “personnel who are assigned by the president with the approval of Parliament shall furnish a list of their businesses and assets together with the value of each to the president.”
The disclosure of assets for presidentially appointed officials comes one-and-a-half years after the present administration assumed office despite the Thein Sein repeatedly emphasizing the need for good and clean governance.
Observers remain doubtful that former top military officials who became ministers for the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party will disclose their true wealth, for fear of being accused of corruption.
Zaw Htay said Thein Sein will not publicize the assets list as the Constitution does not require such a level of transparency. But that decision is totally at the president’s discretion, he added.
“If some disputes come up regarding ministers and public officials, the president has the power to reveal relevant information in accordance with the Union Government Law,” explained Zaw Htay.
The rejected proposal for the full declaration of assets came from National League for Democracy MP Win Myint in July. He wanted all public officials—including union, divisional and state level ministers, the attorney-general, auditor-general, chief justices, Supreme Court judges as well as members of the Constitutional Tribunal—to declare interests to foster public trust in elected officials.