GPO rebuts corruption claim

The Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) defended its vaccine factory construction project on Friday but the Department of Special Investigation plans a further inspection next week.

  • Published: 29/03/2013 at 09:31 PM
  • Newspaper section: breakingnews

The Public Health Ministry asked the DSI to look into suspected irregularities in the 1.4-billion-baht plant for influenza and bird flu vaccines in Kaeng Khoi district of Saraburi province.

GPO director Withit Atthawechakul met on Friday with Thanin Prempree, director of the DSI's Corruption Suppression and Prevention Centre, to clarify the issues raised.

Dr Withit flashed a victory sign as he emerged from the two-hour meeting but declined to answer reporters' questions, saying that Mr Thanin should be the one to clarify the issue.

Mr Thanin said on Thursday that he had examined details of the construction contracts that were signed during the Democrat-led government in 2009. He said four issues needed to be investigated.

The DSI wants to know why there were two construction contracts, and why four contracts were signed with four companies to design the same project. As well, it wants to know why the GPO changed the factory layout and extended the construction period for the contractors.

While contracts originally stated that vaccines would be produced from killed disease microorganisms, the terms were later changed to live attenuated (weakened) microorganisms, although the two manufacturing processes required different machinery and technology.

Finally, the DSI wants to know why machinery had been procured even though only 40% of the work at the factory had been completed. 

Mr Thanin said he would check if any amendments to the contracts were intended to benefit any private companies. 

Dr Withit was quoted as saying that the budget for the factory was spread over four fiscal years, which automatically forced the GPO to sign several contracts because the funding was divided and given to it gradually. 

Discussing the delay in the construction, he said the major cause was the flooding in 2011, after which the Pheu Thai-led government extended the project delivery date by another 400 days.

The cabinet later approved a further 100-day extension due to technical problems that required a change in some building techniques and engineering examination.

Dr Withit insisted that the change in the vaccine manufacturing processes would not be a problem or cause any damage because both processes were based on similar procedures, although they were technically different. 

Mr Thanin declined to give details about why the GPO purchased machinery before the factory construction was completed. 

DSI officials would look into matters further when they inspect the factory on Tuesday, Mr Thanin added.

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Writer: King-oua Laohong
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