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Foundation Returns Last of Transferred Funds to Irrawaddy Regional Gov’t

By Salai Thant Zin 4 June 2019

PATHEIN, Irrawaddy Region—All of the missing funds improperly transferred from the Irrawaddy regional government to a local foundation led by ministers of the previous government have been returned.

The Ayeyarwady Health and Education Multi-Developments Foundation, previously known as the Ayeyarwady Multi-Developments Foundation, was ordered by the regional government to return a total of 5.2 billion kyats (US$3.4 million) that former Irrawaddy Region Chief Minister U Thein Aung allegedly transferred to the foundation before handing power to the new administration in early 2016.

The previous administration raised development funds by organizing concerts and soliciting contributions from local businesses.

The foundation last November returned some 3.4 billion kyats to the current regional government, which announced plans to sue the organization in April as it failed to return the remaining money on schedule in January. Following negotiations, the regional government extended the repayment period to May 31, warning that legal action would be taken if the money was not returned by that date.

“We received all the money from the foundation by May 31,” Irrawaddy Region Planning and Finance Minister U Htay Win told The Irrawaddy.

He said the regional government would organize a press conference on the issue.

The investigation into the missing funds started after U Zayar Min Thein, a lawmaker representing Pyapon Constituency 1 in the local legislature, asked the Irrawaddy parliament in 2016 whether the previous administration had handed over the regional development funds to the new government.

On instructions from the President’s Office, the Auditor General’s Office carried out an investigation and reported back that the funds should be reclaimed from the foundation.

The Auditor General’s Office discovered that the foundation had deposited nearly 4 billion kyats with private banks, invested around 400 million kyats in joint ventures with three private companies, and lent nearly 1 billion kyats for 28 regional development projects.

The President’s Office then instructed the current regional government to reclaim the funds. The foundation offered to provide records of the savings accounts, accounts receivable and loan contracts, but the current administration insisted that the funds be returned in cash, thereby causing delays in the repayment process.

“We negotiated with the regional government and paid back over 1 billion kyats. The regional chief minister issued an official letter [stating] that we have paid back all the money,” said the secretary of the foundation, U Kyi Aung.

Irrawaddy Region Minister for Electricity, Industry and Transportation U Win Htay said the money returned to the current government would be used to upgrade bridges in the region in the 2019-20 fiscal year.

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