PM challenges Supa on graft claim
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Wednesday challenged deputy permanent secretary for finance Supa Piyajitti to reveal detailed evidence to back up her claims of corruption in the rice pledging scheme.
- Published: 3/07/2013 at 09:06 PM
- Newspaper section: breakingnews
Ms Yingluck was responding to Ms Supa’s testimony to a Senate committee on Tuesday that the scheme was plagued with corruption and had been racking up huge losses.
Supa: Loss so far is 221 billion baht
Ms Supa, who heads the Finance Ministry team in charge of assessing accounts of the scheme, admitted for the first time there was evidence of corruption at every stage of the process, starting from the registration of farmers who mortgage their paddy, with exaggerated figures provided to the state.
Ms Yingluck called on Ms Supa to be fair to the government, saying a sweeping inspection of more than 2,000 rice warehouses had reported irregularities in just 26 facilities.
Authorities were waiting for police to wrap up their investigations in those cases, she added.
Ms Yingluck said if Ms Supa had evidence to back her allegations, she should provide them to authorities. All concerned agencies would take legal action against wrongdoers and launch a full investigation into the matter.
Speaking of corruption on such a broad scale would only cause concern, the premier said, adding that the deputy permanent secretary for finance should provide details about rice-storage facilities and provinces involved in any alleged corruption.
In her testimony Ms Supa said the Commerce Ministry allowed rice mills to keep pledged paddy in storage for 50 days, an increase from seven days in previous programmes, before sending milled rice to the government's central warehouses. This has encouraged corruption by allowing repeated pledges of the same paddy under the government scheme, she said.
A random survey conducted among just 10% of registered farmers was the only form of verification.
Ms Supa said the losses incurred by the scheme from the 2011-2012 harvest season, the 2012 harvest season and the 2012-2013 harvest season are estimated at 220.96 billion baht.
Meanwhile, the Commerce Ministry announced plans for a bid for 500,000 tonnes of rice in its stock in two weeks.
Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan said on Wednesday that the offer will be open to all bidders, with the highest price to clinch the deal. The ministry would cancel if the best offer is below the market price, he added.
The government will focus on rice exports more than selling in the domestic market, he said. He promised to release figures including the quantity and pricing to the public for transparency.
Despite attempts to release rice from warehouses through bidding, the ministry will not abandon government-to-government sales.
Chookiat Ophaswongse, honorary president of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, welcomed the decision to sell 500,000 tonnes of rice by bids, but stressed the process must be transparent.
Mr Chookiat urged the government to make the median price competitive with the global market price so Thailand could compete with other exporters.
‘’Exporters cannot compete with other countries because their rice is cheaper, and the trend of lower price continues,’’ he said.
About the author
- Writer: Phusadee Arunmas and Pradit Ruangdit