Thursday, January 24, 2013

Burma launches corruption probe at Telecommunications Ministry

Thursday, 24 January 2013 14:40 AFP

Burma has launched a probe into alleged high-level corruption in its Telecommunications Ministry, officials said Thursday, following a vow to tackle graft in the former junta-ruled country.

The government's Bureau of Special Investigation (BSI) has questioned more than a dozen ministry officials and may also grill former telecoms minister Thein Tun who abruptly resigned last week, they said.

He would be the first government minister known to have been investigated for corruption under the new reformist government which took power in 2011.

"About 20 officials at the telecommunications ministry have been questioned by the BSI in Naypyidaw. If a case is built with enough evidence after the inquiry, then they might summon the former minister," a government official who did not want to be named told AFP.

He said Thein Tun was being closely watched by the authorities.

"He has been told to report to the authorities concerned if he wants to travel outside Naypyitaw," the official said.
Presidential spokesman Ye Htut confirmed the probe.

"It's true that investigations have been ongoing," he said, but declined to elaborate.

President Thein Sein has pledged to clean up the country as part of reforms that promise greater democracy and measures to establish the rule of law after decades of corrupt military rule ended in 2011.

In a rare public move to tackle graft, the authorities in November ordered state loans totaling tens of millions of dollars to be clawed back from private businesses.

The move came after the auditor general found dozens of cases of "misuse and dishonest actions" involving 15 ministries that resulted in nearly US $65 million in loans leaving government coffers.

A new anti-graft law will enable authorities to "investigate and rigorously prosecute those involved in corruption in both the public and private sectors", according to an official document distributed at a recent donor forum.

Burma, officially known as Myanmar, has launched a programme to modernise its underdeveloped communications networks in a move that could finally bring mobile and Internet access to the masses and open the nascent market to foreign businesses.
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