Prime Minister and SEC announce new moves against graft

nograft5Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered the Ministry of Finance last week to draft new rules on government procurement in order to ensure it is more transparent and free of corruption, while the Securities and Exchange Commission said it will begin working with the Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand (ACT) to improve the examinations of accounts of listed companies.

Ampon Kittiampon of the Prime Minister’s Office said the new guidelines on procurement would aim to rectify flaws in the process that provide loopholes for corrupt practices or collusion. These include blurred terms of reference (TOR) that allow for fixing of bids and inflating costs that go to middlemen, he said.

Fighting corruption is a cornerstone policy of the Prime Minister’s administration, and procurement is an area where corruption is often rife, not just in Thailand but in many countries. A procurement scandal recently emerged surrounding the Rolls Royce company in Great Britain, which is alleged to have paid bribes to airline executives in many countries, including Thailand, to ensure those airlines purchased Rolls Royce engines.

Those alleged payoffs took place about a decade ago, long before the current government came to power, and are being investigated. Thai Airways is majority owned by the Ministry of Finance.

Ampon said the new guidelines would also include “moral pledges” not to violate rules and ethics in ToRs.  An anti-graft subcommittee to scrutinize construction and materials prices would be established, and improvements would be made to the online government procurement (e-GP) system.

Some procurement contracts have already included moral pledges. Comptroller General Department director-general Sutthirat Rattnachot said 35 projects had been approved under moral agreements together with measures to increase project transparency, lessen government spending and increase public participation.

In support of transparency, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced it will work with the Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand, a civil society group, to beef up examinations of filings by listed companies.

SEC secretary-general Rapee Sucharitakul said most listed companies are large and many are involved in bidding on state projects and in procurement. More extensive and better examinations of their filings and records should ensure greater transparency and cut down on graft and conflicts of interest.

“Despite the stiff legal measures being enforced to deter corruption among executives of listed companies, which includes the act of giving and receiving bribes to and from state officials, the truth is corrupt people always look for a chance to cheat,” Rapee said.

Somkiat Tangkitvanich, president of the Thailand Development Research Institute, the country’s most prominent think tank, called on the government to learn from other countries’ success in curbing corruption by cracking down on state officials and governors by issuing a law requiring all state officials to prove how they obtained their wealth and assets.