The Lao Electric Power Company is heavily in debt, but the managers are living well-Radio Free Asia

Electricite du Laos, a Lao power supplier, is heavily in debt, owing at least US$2 billion to foreign creditors, mainly Chinese and Thais. Sources said that at the same time, EDL managers are still doing well and in some cases have accumulated a lot of personal wealth.

An official of the Ministry of Energy and Mines of the Lao Government told the “Lao Government” on condition of anonymity: “Laos owes foreigners approximately US$2 billion in electricity, excluding interest.”

A source close to a senior EDL official said that the power company’s debt “now exceeds $2 billion.”

According to a source familiar with the issue, there are no issues of transparency, checks and balances or balances in the EDL bidding process, resulting in project costs exceeding normal levels, and interest and debt levels are difficult to control.

An EDL official, who asked not to be named, said: “EDL is now in financial crisis due to borrowing to build dams and power grids.” “The cost of each project is at least US$400 million to US$500 million, plus interest rates in the future.”

The official said that EDL now plans to save costs by reducing the number of personnel and to force early retirement at the age of 60.

He said: “The number of employees is gradually decreasing from 6,000 to 4,000, leaving only two-thirds of what we are now.” “No one wants to leave, but they will have to leave their jobs at the age of 60, and in many Under circumstances, EDL will not recruit to replace them.”

A source close to a senior EDL official told RFA that before the Chinese company Southern Power Grid Co., Ltd. took over the management of the EDL grid at the end of 2020, some EDL executives won bids for their grid projects. The company submits under another name.

He said: “Lack of transparency has led to a surge in project expenditures, and sometimes costs doubled or tripled.”

RFA sources said that EDL employees were appointed as department heads and did a good job in finance “because they also get income from other sources in addition to their basic salary”, adding that the level of personal wealth of EDL managers is comparable to The personal wealth of Lao customs officials is comparable. At the international checkpoint.

An official from the Ministry of Energy and Mines told RFA that the Ministry of Energy and Mines has now assigned auditors to check EDL’s payments and income. He said: “In addition, some officials of the Ministry are working closely with EDL to ensure that their purchase orders and tenders comply with the rule of law.”

The current directors of EDL did not respond to RFA’s statement request.

Chansaveng Boungnong, Minister of Policy and Energy Planning, Ministry of Energy and Mines, also declined to comment, saying he “has no right to answer” reporters’ questions.

Huge personal wealth

A source close to the Sisavat family in Laos said that Sisavat Thiravong, the former EDL director general, was sacked by the former general secretary of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, Thongloun Sisolith. ) Accumulated a lot of personal real estate wealth during retirement.

RFA sources said his property includes townhouses, a 50-room hotel and a 28-room mansion, as well as a 30-hectare Phouthtera cultural garden and resort located in Nonpean Village, Hardsayfong District, a short distance from the capital. The city center of Vientiane is about 20 kilometers away.

Attempts to visit Sisavat on his Facebook page and seek comment on his real estate and business interests have received no response.

A Lao intellectual who is familiar with the issue said on the RFA that some former EDL and politicians executives sold electrical equipment in the name of their children, calling such sales “obviously cases of corruption.”

Laos has an extensive history of government corruption. At the Ministry of Finance’s annual shareholder meeting in November, Vice President Phankham Viphavanh stated that government officials “asked money directly from the people and even threatened to use force.”

On January 29, Bounthong Chitmany, then chairman of the Central Supervisory Committee of the Communist Party of China, said at a committee meeting: “In the past five years from 2016 to 2020, we have discovered 3,200 corrupt government workers. So far, among them, 93 people were charged with economic crimes, of which 64 were convicted.”

Transparency International reported in January 2021 that Laos’ corruption ranking has deteriorated, dropping from 130 in 2019 to 134 in 2020 among 180 countries.

Reported and translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh for the Laos service of RFA. Richard Finney is written in English.

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