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Laos Loses Millions Of Dollars Due To Overvalued Projects

Source: Vientiane Times

The construction cost of many projects with State investment have been found to be too expensive and exceeding the realistic value, inspectors have confirmed.

Though stronger measures have been put in place to address such problems, overvalued development projects continue to come up in Laos, causing great damage to the nation.

The Ministry of Planning and Investment’s Inspection Department unveiled its latest report this month, highlighting a number of overvalued projects as the result of an inspection and investigation mission in 2017.

For instance, the construction of a 50-km road linking Luang Prabang town to Nan district was previously charged at 343.6 billion kip.

Following the investigation, inspectors found construction activities for the project had been revised and the cost of the construction was 28 billion kip higher than the earlier figure, as calculated by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

In another case, the construction of a 10-km road in Lamam district of Xekong province was initially charged at 320 billion kip. ‘

After inspecting the project, authorities found it contravened the laws as the cost was not approved by the relevant authorities. Consequently, 1.2 billion kip was saved in the case of this project.

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The inspection team from the Ministry of Planning and Investment also cooperated with the State Inspection and Anti-Corruption Authority and other relevant sectors to carry out checks to carefully examine the status of State investment projects.

One of its great accomplishments was the examination and investigation of a new building being constructed to house the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. As a result of an inspection, millions of US dollars were saved for the national budget.

Inspectors also saved another 12 billion kip in an irrigation and agriculture programme in Savannakhet province.

The Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment, Dr Kikeo Chanthabouly, told Vientiane Times recently that the government will strictly enforce laws to ensure the effective expenditure of State funds.
He said all State investment projects must meet requirements stipulated in the investment promotion law, particularly for evaluation and bidding procedures.

In October last year, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith told the National Assembly that the cost of road construction was too high, but the quality of roads was often lower than anticipated.

Some people sarcastically say road construction in Laos is a “low profile, high profit” activity, he said.
For instance, the construction of a 1-km road should be about 3.5 billion kip but in actuality, there was a case of some 14 billion being charged for a 1-km stretch, a figure he described as incredible.

Critics say overvalued projects will continue in Laos as greedy senior officials try to misuse State funds for their own gains.

However, inspectors have been praised for exposing misappropriation and ensuring transparency in State administration under a rule-of-law approach.