Mr. Chankai Southichak, President of the Xieng Khouang Inspection Authority, stated at the meeting that 25 ‘ghost projects’ worth over LAK 226 billion (more than USD 7 million) had been uncovered.
Some of the projects had been undertaken by nonexistent companies or those that were no longer operating.
The inspection authority found some 13 enterprises in the province that had temporarily suspended operations, while a further 164 enterprises were defunct.
To uncover the owners of the outstanding amounts, inspection authorities carried out audits of provincial offices, state property management departments, provincial finance departments, tax offices, and the provincial department of planning and investment.
Provincial level departments connected to every government ministry were audited by the inspection authority, as well as hospitals and the urban development and administration agency.
Laos has struggled to deal with the problem of ghost projects, with leaders announcing sweeping changes that have failed to lead to solutions.
In 2016, Minister of Finance Somdy Duangdy told a press conference that funds would not be allocated to a project prior to proper verification of its existence and progress.
“The relevant authorities are required to inspect, certify and ensure that the projects have been implemented and made progress before money is disbursed for them,” he said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Phankham Viphanh, then Vice President, spoke out against the issue in 2017, saying that if a ghost project were found, the director of the organisation responsible would be the first to be punished.