Lax oversight allows state contract bribes
Anti-graft advocates yesterday called for tougher regulations on state procurement and hiring along with a new law enabling agencies to combat corruption.
Rangsan Sriworasart, permanent secretary for finance, said a new law, if adopted, should target all government agencies, from state enterprises to local administration organisations.
Procurement and hiring practices carried out by state agencies are attractive targets for abuse because they are both lucrative and opaque.
State procurement accounts for 833 billion baht of the national budget and 7% of the country’s gross domestic product, Mr Rangsan said at a seminar at the launch of the “Zero Corruption” campaign. He said greater oversight of state procurements and more transparency would complement the National Council for Peace and Order’s drive to root out government corruption.
Despite regulations on e-auctions, imposed by the Department of the Comptroller-General, bribes have still been paid in the procurement process by state agencies, Mr Rangsan said.
Thailand Development Research Institute president Somkiat Tangkitvanich voiced support for Mr Rangsan’s idea to draft a new procurement law.
He said a graft-prevention system is necessary for the country’s advancement.
“It’s time that the Prime Minister’s Office’s procurement regulations be developed into law to fend off graft and plug loopholes that can lead to corruption,” he said.
Mr Somkiat also urged state agencies to make their procurement information public. As much as 60% of the information is classified or concealed from the public.
The low amount of disclosure itself is a good indicator of graft, Mr Somkiat said.
Uthit Buasri, assistant secretary-general of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), said he hoped a revived graft-busting effort would yield more productive results this year.
He said the new administration has vocalised a clear political determination to fight against corruption and has allocated money in the budget to support the work directly.
Mr Uthit said that to ensure effective scrutiny of state procurement, information on projects worth more than 100,000 baht needs to be made public.
Additionally, private firms which are awarded government projects totalling more than 2 million baht must also be required to reveal their balance sheets. The public ought to be able to evaluate the performance of state agencies concerned, he said.
He said the NACC was now working with the Public Health Ministry to organise training courses for more than 80,000 village health volunteers nationwide to help thwart corruption.
Cash rewards will be given to people who provide information that exposes graft. Officials will seize the assets of the perpetrators, he said.
Manas Jamveha,director-general of the Comptroller General’s Department, said more computers will be used to enable procurement through online bidding, which should help prevent malfeasance, boost transparency and simplify information backup work.
Prime Minister’s Office Minister ML Panadda Diskul said graft in the civil servant system often involves the agencies’ higher-ups, which has encouraged their subordinates to follow suit.
He said he has received complaints that several state agencies including local administrative organisations have misappropriated their budgets by paying for excursion trips.
First published: Bangkok Post, September 9, 2014