Clean procurement bill moves forward, military will cooperate

 

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Thailand’s push to become even more competitive was aided last week when the Cabinet approved a draft bill on public-sector procurement that will increase transparency from the central government down to local administration and independent agencies.

In addition, the Ministry of Defense signed an agreement with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to make military procurements open to review to ensure they are free from graft and kickbacks.

The measures have the potential to increase business between United States companies and the Thai government, which has been hindered by misconduct on the part a few bad apples among officials and a lack of transparency. Companies from the U.S. must abide by the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it illegal for them to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business.

Although Thailand’s anti-corruption scores from international watchdogs have improved over the past year, graft remains a problem, as it is in many countries at similar stages of development. Public sector procurement is notorious for bribery and kickbacks in many countries, and examples of it are found even in advanced nations.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has made fighting corruption one of his administration’s cornerstone policies. While his government has achieved some progress, corruption is an age-old problem that is deeply entrenched and will require time to eliminate.

The draft bill on public procurement approved by the Cabinet will cover purchases made by all state agencies, and also by local administrative organizations, state enterprises, public organizations, independent organizations established under the constitution, state universities and state independent bodies.

The Council of State has also completed its deliberations on the bill, and it will be forwarded to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) for approval. Once approved, it would come into force three months later.

Previously, procurement regulations were issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, and did not cover local administrative bodies. Under the new law, those guilty of violations face a maximum 10 years in prison and fines of as much as $11,317 for each charge.

Also on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, chaired a ceremony attended by chiefs and deputy chiefs of all branches of the armed forces and agencies under the ministry’s supervision to sign a memorandum of understanding with NACC President Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit on clean procurement for the armed forces.

Watcharapol said the NACC is independent and cannot be influenced or intimidated by any bad apples in the military or anywhere else.

Prawit said that, “these problems must be dealt with and corruption must be rooted out from the military. Whether it will succeed depends on awareness of these army officers.”

The Royal Thai Police are expected to sign a similar agreement with the NACC later this year.