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Cooperation, Lack of Accountability Biggest Challenges for Anti-Graft Body, Says Chairman

By San Yamin Aung 20 May 2019

YANGON— Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman U Aung Kyi told the Union Parliament on Monday that an unwillingness to cooperate, as well as a lack of accountability and transparency, are the commission’s biggest challenges.

“To effectively prevent internal corruption, it depends on the efforts of 200 heads of governmental departments and enterprises across the country,” he said, responding to lawmakers’ criticism of his commission’s first-year performance.

A total of 33 lawmakers debated the commission’s 2018 annual report on May 9 and 13, with many taking issue with the high number of complaints that the commission transferred to other governmental bodies and the soft sentences those bodies handed out.

U Aung Kyi said on Monday that he was also not pleased with responses from the concerned departments that they had transferred the cases to.

Among the 1,795 complaints the commission handed over to the separate ministries and regional and state governments for action (in accordance with the code of conduct for civil servants) in 2018, action was taken on only 536.

According to the commission’s report, the Yangon regional government had the most cases transferred to it among regional and state governments—197, of which only 25 were resolved.

Among the ministries, the Ministry of Home Affairs had the most complaints transferred to it—249, of which it took action on 149.

He said the cases that they handed over were those which the commission couldn’t take action on under the Anti-Corruption Law and those which would be more effectively handled by the concerned departments and regional and state governments.

“The main reason that the lawmakers distrust the transferred cases are because of the internal corruption at [those] departments,” he said.

U Aung Kyi said that, according to the commission’s findings, there are low-level employees working in conjunction with corrupt supervisors, and there are also high-level officials who cover up investigations into officers’ dishonest or illegal activities or paint large offences as small ones.

He added that the commission will also take action against such officials while also calling for the cooperation from the departments’ heads in tackling corruption.

Lawmakers had also pointed out that the commission’s rate of investigation and prosecution of corruption cases was low compared to how rampant corruption is.

The ACC only successfully investigated and prosecuted 46 of the 10,543 complaints lodged in 2018, while it handed over 1,795 cases to other governmental bodies. The commission was unable to address 8,092 complaints—those which were deemed not to include strong enough evidence to start an investigation, cases still ongoing in the courts and those with incomplete information regarding the complainant.

The remaining 610 complaints are still being scrutinized.

U Aung Kyi acknowledged that the annual rate of the commission’s corruption prosecution was low but he cited the limits of the commission’s manpower, technical expertise and experience as reasons.

To investigate a case, it takes between 10 and 15 commission members involved in a process that takes months to carry out, he said, so the commission can only afford to investigate a maximum of five cases at a time.

“We, the commission, can’t afford to fight corruption alone. Only with the cooperation of the leaders of the country’s three pillars, the institutions and people, [will] the corruption be successfully combated,” U Aung Kyi told the lawmakers.

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