Graft crusaders on alert

Private sector ready to monitor megaprojects

The private sector will boost its role in observing the government's 2-trillion-baht infrastructure investment in a bid to to detect any corruption.

Vichai: We will be observing from inside

Vichai Assarasakorn, a vice-chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong and Transport Minister Chadchat Sittipunt will sign an "integrity pact' with the TCC to allow it to send experts to observe the infrastructure investment.

The pact will for the first time enable experts from the private sector who have no conflict of interest with the projects to observe investment right from the draft of the terms of reference (ToR) until completion.

The pact will allow observers to witness the investment process in three stages.

The first stage includes the ToR draft, construction specifications and pricing; the second stage includes the auction procedure and ensuring enough competition from bidders in and outside Thailand; and the third stage is the completion process when observers will focus on specifications of completed projects.

"Previously, the private sector could only play the role of whistleblower, but this initiative will allow us to observe from the inside so that we can take more effective action," Mr Vichai said.

He said the private sector expects the cabinet to endorse the pact to make it applicable to investments by other ministries.

The private sector also wants Deputy Prime Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi to sign an integrity pact for the 350-billion-baht water management project, but he has yet to say if he will.

This initiative is also in line with the Anti-Corruption Act that stepped up disclosure requirements for the spending of taxpayers' money by government agencies, state enterprises and provincial bodies, Mr Vichai said.

The infrastructure investment plan will allocate 40% of the 2 trillion baht to high-speed trains, 24% to urban mass transit, 20% to dual-track railways and the rest to motorway, road and seaport maintenance.

Critics of the plan claim the government wishes to avoid parliamentary examination by putting the spending under the off-the-budget borrowing bill.

Mr Chadchat said the practice is no different from the Finance Ministry allocating a borrowing budget before asking for parliamentary approval under the annual budget bill.

He said the ministry will announce the middle price of all projects and auction details online while setting a middle price for bidding by advisory firms.

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Writer: Parista Yuthamanop
Position: Writer