Panya guilty in OAG chief selection case

The Supreme Court yesterday handed down a suspended two-year jail term to former State Audit Commission chairman Panya Tantiyavarong.

Panya: Handed suspended term

He was convicted of malfeasance in the selection of the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) chief in 2001.

Prosecutors and one of the three candidates for the OAG governor post, Prathan Dabphet, had filed a lawsuit against Mr Panya accusing him of misconduct in office that caused damage to others.

The court heard Panya submitted the names of three candidates _ Mr Prathan, Nonthaphon Nimsomboon and Jaruvan Maintaka _ to the Senate on July 3, 2001 so the Upper House could select the new auditor-general.

By submitting three names, Panya broke an audit commission regulation which stipulates that only the name of the candidate who wins the highest number, or more than half, of the commissioner votes should be forwarded to the Upper House for approval.

The three names were forwarded to the Senate despite Mr Prathan having gained the highest number of votes _ five out eight commissioners, the court was told.

The Senate voted to recommend Khunying Jaruvan for royal appointment.

During his trial, Panya argued the selection process was carried according to regulations and he had no intention of causing damage to the plaintiff.

The original court sentenced Panya to three years in prison on May 30, 2006 for malfeasance.

The Appeal Court, however, acquitted him, saying that while the nomination of three people instead of one was wrong, the act did not cause damage to the complainants or the OAG. This verdict, however, was overturned yesterday by the Supreme Court, which ruled Panya had committed an act of misconduct.

The court sentenced Panya to three years in jail and fined him 20,000 baht, but commuted the prison term to a two-year suspended sentence because the defendant had never been jailed before.