Monday, September 25, 2017

Parliament debates how to end graft

Lawmakers urged the government to “tackle corruption happening across the country” yesterday after a two-day discussion on the topic.

The unanimously approved proposal, which was put forth by Pyithu Hluttaw MP U Than Win (NLD; North Okkalapa) on August 2, makes no legislative changes but declares a general interest in improving anti-corruption measures.

MPs spent time discussing corruption in the executive and judicial branches.

Lisu National Development Party MP Lar Mar Lay (Hsawlaw) said he had heard of lawyers asking their clients for bribes.

MP U Myint Tun (NLD; Ta-sei) said that media and civil society organisations are not doing enough to expose corruption among the authorities.

“We have to encourage freedom of press so that the media can report reliable news about the dishonest behaviours and practices of taking bribes committed by government officials,” he said.

MP U Myat Lay Oo (NLD; Htilin) said, “Some civil servants who are involved with criminals are bolder than before when it comes to committing bribery.”

NLD MPs also noted that if the new government, which proclaimed that it would prioritise eliminating corruption, cannot eradicate it effectively, people will sour with the new leaders.

“If lower-ranking officials are still committing corruption even after senior officials have changed, people will get fed up with the government,” said Daw Mi Kun Chan (NLD; Paung). “Sadly, we now see that the government is weak in implementing its anti-corruption processes.”

The MPs acknowledged that stamping out corruption means the government needs to give civil servants a proper salary and benefits.

MP U Nay Myo Tun (NLD; Htantabin) criticised the Anti-Corruption Commission for being weak, noting that it is a Union-level organisation that enjoys salaries but has not been able to produce successful outcomes.

“I see no effectiveness in the commission,” he said.

But Anti-Corruption Commission chair U Mya Win said corruption has existed in Myanmar for years so it will be difficult to eradicate it in the short term.

“Some provisions in the [anti-corruption] law need to be amended or expanded for the anti-corruption process to be successful,” he said.

The reason there are so many official complaints about corruption with so few of those complaints settled is because they tend to come from anonymous sources; are too general or lack solid evidence; are addressing an issue that the law does not address; point to an instance that is already being addressed in the courts; or contain wrong information, he said.

According to the law, he said, they are not allowed to investigate cases they have already looked into, even if the initial investigation stemmed from a complaint that did not provide solid evidence.

He added that more inspectors with greater skill are needed to implement the process successfully.

The commission can only probe top-level officials if that task is assigned by the president or the hluttaw, he said.

If the law is amended, the commission will act in response to the will of the members of parliament, he said.

“I request [the committee that writes bills] to review the anti-corruption law so that we will be able to handle corruption effectively,” said U Mya Win.

Translation by Zar Zar Soe and Thiri Min Htun