Saturday, August 19, 2017

Uni rector suspended amid bribe accusations

The rector of Meiktila University is facing charges for allegedly taking bribes to the tune of nearly K11 million from a construction company tasked with building a new wing.

The Anti-Corruption Commission opened a lawsuit against U Ko Ko Kyaw Soe on December 10 following complaints from the company.

The bribes were frequently solicited, and paid, until the total amounted to K10.9 million (US$8410), according to the commission. The company embroiled in the dispute, MDC Construction Co Ltd, was reportedly employed by the university during the 2014-15 academic year.

“We have found that [the rector] committed a violation of the Anti-Corruption Law,” said U Than Aung, the spokesperson for the Anti-Corruption Committee in Nay Pyi Taw.

According to the commission, MDC Construction, which was building a three-storey addition to the university, filed a complaint that prompted the investigation. The commission formed a five-member investigative group that began reviewing the case earlier this year. Finding reason to believe the complaint could be substantiated, U Than Htun Myint, the team leader of the investigation group, opened a case at the local police station.

The information about the company and the alleged bribes could not be independently verified as contact information for MDC could not be found yesterday, and the commission declined to provide further information about the dispute.

“We cannot reveal the details about what we have found during the investigation of this case until we put it before the court,” said U Than Aung, the commission spokesperson.

U Ko Ko Kyaw Soe also could not be reached for comment, and his wife refused to talk about the lawsuit citing poor health related to stress.

“My husband is going to the mediation centre,” she said, before declining to answer any questions.

U Tin Win, the rector of Meiktila Economic University – a separate institution – said his counterpart has already been suspended, and that government staff facing criminal charges are put on indefinite suspension until the court verdict. According to local residents in Meiktila, vice rector Daw Khin Phyu Phyu Aye is acting in his stead. She also could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Meiktila police confirmed that a corruption lawsuit had been filed against the rector, but declined to provide further information citing the Anti-Corruption Commission as taking the lead on the case. The police added that they cannot arrest the rector without an order from the court, which has not been issued.

U Robert San Aung, a high court lawyer, said the case against the rector cannot proceed unless the Union government permits the complaint. According to the 2013 Anti-Corruption Law, if the court finds evidence against a high-level government official, the Union-level must be consulted and issue a letter approving the trial.

Prosecutors at the Mandalay Division Court are waiting for such official approval. If convicted, the rector could face up to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Very few civil servants have done prison time for corruption, however. According to a President’s Office report revealed at the beginning of the year, just one out 450 civil servants convicted of corruption during President U Thein Sein’s term has served a sentence. The majority, 362, of the bureaucrats concerned faced only administrative penalties, while 69 were transferred to another department.

Myanmar often ranks as one of the most corrupt nations. In the Corruption Perception Index compiled by international watchdog Transparency International, Myanmar ranks 156 out of 175 countries.