The Irrawaddy

Upper House Passes Bill Expanding Anti-Corruption Commission’s Powers

A stack of 1000 kyat banknotes is seen, as employees count money at Yoma Bank in Yangon June 17, 2013. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun (MYANMAR - Tags: BUSINESS) - GM1E97O0TS101

YANGON — The Upper House of Myanmar’s Parliament has passed amendments to the Anti-Corruption Law granting the country’s anti-graft agency more authority in combating bribery.

The amendments allow the Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate at its own initiative any civil servants who are seen to be unusually wealthy. Until now, it could only probe allegations of corruption in response to formal complaints filed with strong supporting evidence.

The Anti-Corruption Law was enacted in 2013 under the previous military-backed government. It was amended on three previous occasions — in 2014, 2016 and 2017 — but the changes were not significant.

The Anti-Corruption Commission, the country’s major corruption-fighting body, was set up to enforce the law. A new commission with 11 members chaired by retired minister of information U Aung Kyi was formed on Nov. 23, 2017.

Under the law, the chairman of the commission has the status of a cabinet minister, while the other members are equal to deputy ministers.

Upper House lawmaker U Aung Thein, who is also a member of the chamber’s Bill Committee, said the amendments were designed to enhance the commission’s effectiveness in tackling the country’s deep-rooted corruption problems, including abuse of the state budget by corrupt institutions and officials.

The changes were approved amid reports of a high-profile corruption investigation into Planning and Finance Minister U Kyaw Win.

U Aung Kyi told reporters after the parliamentary session on Wednesday that the commission’s investigation into the minister is almost complete.

The commission submitted the draft bill amending the Anti-Corruption Law to the Upper House on March 5.

The bill also proposed a reduction in the punishment for those found to have made a false complaint in order to defame a person to six months’ imprisonment from five years. The move is seen as an incentive for the public to collaborate in fighting corruption.

However, the bill that was passed on Wednesday incorporated a change suggested by the Upper House Bill Committee reducing the maximum sentence for filing a false complaint to three years.

Other amendments to the law include expanding the commission’s offices to more states and divisions.

The bill will be returned to the Lower House. From there, barring any objections, it will be sent to President U Win Myint to be signed into law.