Who trusts the NACC?
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Who trusts the NACC?

The court procedures in a case involving former executives of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Inc, who breached Japan's antitrust law by allegedly bribing a Thai official over a power plant project in the southern province of Surat Thani, are worthy of note.

According to a Kyodo news report, the former MHPS executives, namely Fuyuhiko Nishikida, 63, and Yoshiki Tsuji, 57, admitted to the charges in the indictment during their first hearing at the Tokyo District Court.

The Yokohama-based company was awarded a 30-billion-baht contract by the government in February 2013 to supply the machinery to a 5,300-megawatt gas-fired power plant.

Mr Nishikida, who was in charge of procuring materials, and Mr Tsuji confessed they made a payment of 11 million baht to an unnamed official at the Ministry of Transport in Thailand early in February 2015. This was in exchange for favourable treatment in unloading cargo for the power plant project.

They claimed the payment was deemed necessary when they were told they had failed to meet the conditions for discharging cargo. Without the bribe, they said, this "would have taken four to five months which, would have cost the company up to six billion yen in delay damages".

The progress in the case is a sharp contrast to other investigations in Thailand. Probes into several corruption cases that involved Thai authorities do not seem to be going anywhere, which speaks volumes about the graft agency's limited ability to detect irregularities or foul play.

In most cases, the graftbusting agency has reacted somewhat timidly in response to prior action by foreign government agencies against their own bribe givers.

One of these would be the Rolls-Royce scandal that erupted in the wake of action by the UK Serious Fraud Office. Rolls Royce Plc. was ordered in January 2017 to pay £671 million for paying bribes to secure export contracts, believed to have occurred between 1991 and 2005.

Two state enterprises in Thailand, PTT Plc and PTT Exploration and Production Plc, were allegedly involved. Another high-profile scandal, with similar dubious elements, relates to the purchase of fake bomb detectors (GT200).

Even if the NACC finally took the baton, it handled those cases in an inefficient and sluggish manner that threw its competency, or will to bring the wrongdoers to justice, into question.

In July of last year, the NACC conceded to the media its probe into the Rolls-Royce scandal "has found no link to any Thai politicians". The fact there are no significant findings in the case intensifies public doubt about the agency's credibility.

Regarding the bogus bomb detector fiasco, 13 agencies purchased at least 1,358 fake devices between 2006 and 2010, with a total expense of nearly 1.4 billion baht. Despite the blatant irregularities, only one lower-ranking official has been penalised, while his superiors have gotten off scot-free.

But what has really made the public lose trust in the graftbusting agency is the way it has dragged its feet in the luxury watch controversy involving Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon.

The controversy erupted in December 2017 when the so-called "big brother" of the military was spotted wearing an expensive Richard Mille watch that he had failed to declare in his assets list. Gen Prawit was later found to have donned over 20 flashy time pieces including brands such as Rolex and Patek Philippe over the years. The findings were not from the NACC but from the work of active netizens using a cloud-sourcing technique. Not one of the watches had been declared to the NACC. Instead, the agency extended various deadlines for the embattled DPM to file documents supporting his claim they had been borrowed from a friend.

More than 12 months after the saga first came to light, the NACC still cannot present its findings. It even cancelled a press conference on the issue scheduled for yesterday. If the agency finds anything substantial, which is unlikely, it's probably already too late for it to have any serious hope of regaining the trust of the public.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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