March 02, 2016

Laos seeks return of missing millions from poltergeist projects, misappropriation

VIENTIANE, March 1 (Xinhua) -- The recovery of hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars in funds continues to exercise authorities in Laos amid the release of state and ruling party reports revealing fiscal misappropriations in the Southeast Asian state.

More than 58 million U.S. dollars misappropriated from state and provincial budgets has been recovered so-far from some 378 million U.S. dollars disbursed, state-run media Vientiane Times reported.

The figures include some 97 million U.S. dollars in cash and bonds paid out to some 60 so-called "ghost projects" where little or no substantive activity had taken place, of which 27.7 million U.S. dollars has since been recovered.

According to the report, some 95 state and party officials received unspecified disciplinary measures over cases of misappropriation including more than 62 from the province of Oudomxay where many of the reported "ghost projects" were centered.

The country's state banking sector and Ministry of Finance saw 22 and 11 officials disciplined apiece.

The figures released in reports from the Lao Government Inspection Authority and the Inspection Committee of the ruling Lao People's Revolutionary Party's (LPRP) Central Committee were revealed as Lao policymakers seek to reign in wayward expenditure at a time of global economic uncertainty and eye improvements to competitiveness amid regional economic integration through the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

It also comes at a time of renewal in leadership of the ruling party and state executive roles and follows a December amendment to the country's constitution that has strengthened the role of the country's legislatures.

Improved governance and oversight across the country's 17 provinces and capital prefecture was a factor in the constitutional amendment establishing provincial-level People's Assemblies, candidates for whom voters will cast ballots in March 20 alongside those for the National Assembly.

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