Thein Sein

Myanmar ministries to repay ‘embezzled’ cash

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 5:55pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2012, 5:55pm

Myanmar’s president has ordered more than a dozen ministries to repay tens of thousands of dollars “embezzled” by staff, in a rare public move to tackle graft in one of the world’s most corrupt nations.

The order comes after the auditor general found dozens of cases of “misuse and dishonest actions” across 15 ministries that stripped more than US$230,000 from government coffers over the 2011-12 fiscal year.

Most had been refunded but $70,000 was still owed to the government, the financial watchdog said in a report to parliament submitted earlier this month.

“The office of the Union Auditor General discussed with the heads of the respective departments about the findings and took action,” the report said, without giving further details.

The sum “would be refunded in a short time by the respective ministries”, the office of President Thein Sein added in comments attached to the report.

Myanmar, which Transparency International last year ranked as the third most corrupt country in the world, retains a deep-rooted culture of graft among officials and the military who operated with impunity under the junta.

The nominally-civilian government of Thein Sein has pledged to clean up the country as part of a reform process that promises greater democracy and measures to establish the rule of law after decades of corrupt military rule.

The auditor’s probe indicates a willingness to investigate government departments, long used to operating without scrutiny over financial matters.

The chief editor and publisher of a prominent weekly newspaper have been charged with defamation for reporting a separate graft probe into the mining ministry – which is not mentioned in the auditor’s investigation.

The case is ongoing.

On a historic visit to Myanmar on Monday US President Barack Obama urged the country to hasten its “remarkable” reforms calling for the rule of law to be upheld.