Ex-industry minister ‘violated office procedures’: govt spokesman

Former Union Industry Minister U Khin Maung Cho was allowed to resign because he violated office procedures, President’s Office spokesperson U Zaw Htay said.

“Regarding the resignation of Industry Minister U Khin Maung Cho, the investigation found that [he] violated office procedures. According to this finding, U Khin Maung Cho had to resign to take responsibility and accountability,” U Zaw Htay told members of the media at the government’s bimonthly press conference in Naypyitaw on Friday.

On July 26, the President’s Office announced that U Khin Maung Cho had stepped down of his own volition in the wake of a corruption scandal.

U Khin Maung Cho is the second Union minister to resign amid allegations of corruption. The charges arose after he failed to invite tenders for the procurement of raw materials for Burma Pharmaceutical Industry (BPI), a state-owned drugmaker under the Industry Ministry.

According to industry sources, more than 1 billion kyats (about US$660,000) worth of raw materials were purchased for BPI without any tender process being held.

The case was not handled by the national anti-graft body, but by an investigation team consisting of three Union ministers after a complaint was filed directly with the President’s Office, U Zaw Htay explained.

“The President has allowed him to resign, in accordance with the Constitution. This case is being handled by the government. The case of the electricity and energy ministry is being handled by the Anti-Corruption Commission. [The two cases] are different,” U Zaw Htay said.

He was referring to a separate case in which the Anti-Corruption Commission has launched an investigation into Electricity Minister U Win Khaing and his deputy U Htun Naing.

When the NLD took office in 2016, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi headed the Ministry of Electricity and Energy herself along with three other ministers. After becoming State Counselor, she relinquished control of the ministry, retaining only the Foreign Affairs Ministry in addition to the new role.

U Pe Zin Tun, a holdover from U Thein Sein’s administration, was then named electricity and energy minister. He resigned on health grounds in 2017 and was replaced by U Win Khaing, who was then serving as Union construction minister.

The President’s Office has assigned U Soe Win, the Union minister for planning and finance, to concurrently serve as industry minister.

U Soe Win, who has nearly five decades of experience in the finance and banking sectors, became the minister of planning and finance in May last year after his predecessor U Kyaw Win stepped down, also in the wake of a corruption probe.

U Soe Win was assigned to play the two roles partly because the two jobs are similar in nature, and partly because there is just one and a half years left in the government’s term, U Zaw Htay said, adding that the idea came from the President and the State Counselor.

Source: The Irrawaddy

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