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Almost 150 million USD lost to corruption in Laos

VIENTIANE, July 22 (Xinhua) -- More than 1.2 trillion Lao kip ( 149.40 million U.S. dollars) has been misappropriated from 2012 to the present day through corruption, according to state-run daily Vientiane Times on Tuesday.

The announcement was made by Head of the Government Inspection Authority Bounthong Chitmany during his report to the National Assembly (NA) on the status of inspection and anti-corruption activities.

According to Bounthong, the authority has inspected more than 300 targets since 2012. The main forms of corrupt activity were personal abuse of power for personal benefit, bribery, forgery of documents, illegally modifying technical standards and designs, and delaying document approval for personal gain.

"The corruption activities in the country are circulating in these five ways, with the abuse of power and delaying document approval the most widespread among them," Bounthong said.

According to Bounthong, abuse of power was often exercised for the benefit of friends and family, while delaying the approval of documents was practiced to induce bargaining to speed approval.

Approximately 41.6 percent of the funds and assets gained by corrupt means have been recovered and restored to the National Treasury, amounting to some 505 billion Lao kip (62.87 million U.S. dollars).

Bounthong reminded the NA that state assets were being lost due to incomprehensive project management of developments including incomplete design works.

Officials were also guilty of overloading the price of projects and forging documents suggesting that projects were complete in order to receive payment.

The majority of state assets lost were due to deliberate conspiracies between groups of officials who created plans to embezzle money from the state budget. Other groups of officials conspired to sell state-owned land for unrealistically low prices for personal benefit.

According to Vientiane Times, Bounthong also decried the implementation of projects which had not been approved by the National Assembly as required by law. Such projects were a huge loss of state revenue as they violated not only financial discipline but often saw price blowouts due to a lack of transparency.

Projects implemented without the approval of the NA were also more likely to be a burden on the budget as they were often of a lower quality and more expensive.

Illegal logging and the illegal trade of wood were also a major factor in the loss of state property. Illegal or unmanaged logging has not only resulted in the destruction of forestry assets but has also brought less revenue from trade despite a rapidly increasing number of wood processing factories, Bounthong said.

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