Graft accusations swirl over 190M kyat Myanmar blew on diploma mills

There’s no sign, but somewhere between the Mac repair shop and hair salon is reputed to be the headquarters of Akamai University in Hilo, Hawaii. Image: Google
There’s no sign, but somewhere between the Mac repair shop and hair salon is reputed to be the headquarters of Akamai University in Hilo, Hawaii. Image: Google

Myanmar paid over 190 million kyat (US$130,000) to bogus academic institutions for educational services, lawmakers revealed during a recent assembly debate, amid allegations of graft.

The agency responsible for recruiting and training government officials paid the money to Akamai University in Hawaii and its affiliated EDS Business School in Malaysia – neither of which are accredited – for post-graduate courses in public administration.

The Union Civil Service Board, or UCSB, paid the money from October 2017 until March 2019, not long after it announced it had severed ties with the reputed diploma mill after videos Akamai University’s “campus,” two small rooms in a small building, went viral in Myanmar.

Raising the matter during a Thursday debate, upper assemblyman U Myo Win compared the diploma mills to a local nursery school due to their lack of academic credibility, according to 7 Day News.

“(The universities) are not famous and not recognized by relevant authorities,” he said, before launching a sarcastic broadside. “I have to respect the UCSB team for their consideration for the civil servants.”

According to the top government auditor, the UCSB said it contracted the two universities for services because they offered a 70% tuition discount.

But political commentator Nay Yan Oo accused the agency of corruption. He wrote online that not only did UCSB chairman U Win Thein earn an honorary doctoral degree from Akamai that is listed on his official CV (which seems unavailable now; always a good indicator of transparency), but his nephew was offered a job by the school. Win Thein calls himself “doctor.” He had no immediate response to the accusation.

On Friday he wrote that unspecified legal action against the board had been initiated.

Former Finance Minister Kyaw Win previously fell victim to an online diploma mill scandal. He was found to have a bogus doctorate from Brooklyn Park University, which was one of a number of fake schools run by a Pakistani company exposed in a 2015 New York Times investigation. After being investigated for corruption, he resigned from his position atop the Finance Ministry.

Related:

Amid war, Kachin rebels expand education system for IDPs

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CITY: YANGONCATEGORY: NEWS

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