Suspicions spark call to halt EEC water bids

Suspicions spark call to halt EEC water bids

Major project comes under the microscope

The House Committee on Budgeting Study and Budget Administration will on Tuesday call on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to scrap the latest bidding for the main water transmission pipeline system for the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), citing the transparency of the process.

Chaiya Promma, Pheu Thai Party MP for Nong Bua Lam Phu who chairs the House Committee, on Monday said the committee will ask Gen Prayut to launch a new round of online bidding as an alternative in order to attract more bidders and promote competition.

He said the project, owned by the Treasury Department, was opened twice for bidding from July to September last year. He said the terms of reference were revised for the second bidding and that led to questions arising over the transparency of the process, especially after the Treasury Department failed to provide a clear explanation of the matter, he said.

Mr Chaiya said the House Committee will also request that Gen Prayut ask the cabinet to pass a resolution allowing the Eastern Economic Corridor Policy Committee to co-host the new auction with the Treasury Department.

Currently, the main water transmission system for the EEC comprises three pipelines -- Dok Krai, Nong Pla Lai-Nong Khor and Nong Khor-Laem Chabang.

The Eastern Water Resources Development and Management Public Co -- once a state enterprise when it was founded in 1992 -- was granted a 30-year concession to lease/manage Dok Krai pipeline in 1994 and later allowed to operate the other two EEC pipelines.

Also known as East Water, it became a public company in 1997 and continues to run the three pipelines today.

On June 11 last year, Ratchaphatsadu Land Committee resolved to allow the private sector, following a bidding process, to manage the three pipeline systems under a single contract which will expire on Dec 31, 2024.

After two biddings last year, the Treasury Department announced Vongsayam Korsang Co had won the bid on March 14 this year with a tendered quote of 25.6 billion baht. East Water offered 24.2 billion baht.

However, the contract signing on May 3 was suspended following complaints from the opposition Pheu Thai Party of "irregularities" and accusations that the terms of reference were tweaked in favour of the winner.

The move prompted Gen Prayut to order an investigation to ensure transparency.

Last week, the Finance Ministry set up a committee that has a May 20 deadline to submit its findings on the affair.

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