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Only five Myanmar companies pass transparency test

Publication Date : 28-07-2014

 

Of all 60 companies enlisting for the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business's transparency index, only five - led by Kanbawza (KBZ) Bank - earned enough points to pass the test.

Released this week, the TiME/Pwint Thit Sa Report showed KBZ at the top with a 6.63 score out of 10. Parami scored 6.58, Max Myanmar 5.8, Shwe Taung 5.58, and Myanmar Petroleum Resources E & P 5.01. The rest scored under five.

MCRB director Vicky Bowman, who served as UK ambassador to Myanmar from 2002 to 2006, noted that the report looked mainly into information disclosed by the companies. She said that it is not the assessment of their actual performance in these areas. Policies and commitments mean nothing unless they are known, understood by all employees and embedded in the company's day to day business activities, she said.

"We hope to encourage more transparency by Myanmar companies because we believe that through transparency, businesses gain the trust of society and improve good governance in the country. Myanmar has many governance problems, including in economy. If companies want to improve the situation, they need to be transparent," she said.

She added that the companies at the top should be proud of what they have done because they are moving towards the right direction within the region. She also encouraged local firms to be more transparent, and upgrade their corporate governance, sustainability practices and public communication in line with international standards, despite no current national regulatory requirements to do so.

The report observed disclosed information on responsible business practices. Most of the 60 companies were among the top 100 taxpayers in the 2012-13 fiscal year, published by the Internal Revenue Department. Others are local companies who were not on the list but play a prominent role. Of total, only 35 have websites. Those without websites scored zero in the survey. Others published just brief corporate information.

Win Kyaw Kyaw, the project manager, noted that the methodology is drawn from Transparency International, which focuses on company practices in anti-corruption, organisational transparency, human rights, and health, safety and the environment (HSE).

According to the survey, most of companies scored the lowest in the areas of human rights, land acquisition, and HSE.

According to Bowman, some companies have learned during the survey period the importance of such information. Some do have anti-corruption codes of conduct that were not published. They subsequently started publishing the information.

She said that the report did not focus on corporate profits, which have never been published.

"It will depend on a change in Myanmar's economy. So once we have the stock exchange, some of the companies will have to start publishing their financial information, including their profits and the taxes they pay."

Operating in hydropower, agriculture, mining, tourism and tobacco/beverages, some 25 companies did not have corporate websites, including Asia World, Eden, IGE, Ruby Dragon, Shwe Thanlwin, Yuzana, Zaykaba, and the two military-owned conglomerates: Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings and Myanmar Economic Corp.

On sharing MCRB's experience of contacting military-owned conglomerates, Bowman said: "Some of them are hard to communicate [with]. For example, when we sent our survey to Myanmar Economic Corp, they wouldn't receive it at the gate. They said [that] you can't send it to MEC. To me, it is not a transparent and responsible company. They won't even take a letter from us. That means they won't take letters from citizens who have complaints."

She also said that some others were not responsive to requests. Yet, the ranking will continue.

"We certainly intend to do it next year. We hope we can do it in 2016. We definitely want to do it again and make it a long-term process."

 

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