Shed light on lamp row
Complaints about the procurement of overpriced street lamps have put the heads of two local administration agencies in Samut Prakan on the block.
The Racha Thewa tambon administration organisation (TAO) in Bang Phli district reportedly spent more than 642 million baht on the procurement of 6,773 kinnaree lampposts, while the Nong Prue Tambon administration organisation, also in Bang Phli district, procured similar lamps that were topped with miniature aircraft at almost 100,000 baht per item.
The two TAOs have called the solar-powered lamps the "pride of their communities".
Both local administrations adamantly denied accusations of irregularities in the procurement projects, which underwent separate e-bidding processes. Reportedly, in the case of Racha Thewa, there was only one supplier truly involved -- other bidders offered cheaper proposals but their offers were not accepted.
Such decorative street lamps have been a big hit among local administrators over the past decade.
Most used ornaments symbolic of their respective areas. For example, Trang's Muang district used the sea cow, Saraburi's Tabkwang district used a deer and Samut Prakan's Bang Phli, where Suvarnabhumi airport is located, used aircraft.
Critics have previously spoken out against an excessive number of lampposts being disproportionately installed in each area, making streets look ugly rather than beautiful, and being a waste of state funds.
But the kinnaree and aircraft lamps issue seems a blatant example of how state funds are misspent, particularly in Bang Phli district.
In an interview with local media, Songchai Nokkhamin, the Racha Thewa chief, admitted too many lamps may have been installed in certain spots due to "technical reasons".
Mr Songchai and the head of the Nong Prue TAO also insisted that the posts and decorative items were of good quality, which was why they were expensive.
Mr Songchai, in particular, claimed that the criticism against his pricey lamps was politically motivated. There are reports that the Racha Thewa tambon is planning to install even more decorative lamps.
Netizens are refusing to let the criticism slide. They have shared a photo of kinnaree lampposts lining a narrow dirt road and around a large fish pond, asking why such locations deserve so many costly lamps.
The outcry prompted the Royal Thai Police's anti-graft unit to launch a probe into Racha Thewa's spending. The public hopes that other anti-corruption agencies, like the Office of Auditor-General, will follow suit.
This is a challenge for police investigators and state auditors. Looking into whether the prices were inflated may not be good enough.
Instead, they must go beyond merely examining documents and seek to close loopholes that allow dubious practices.
The two TAOs are obliged to follow budget regulations to ensure that money is well spent. If they are in the wrong, action must be taken. Corruption is a problem that must be dealt with.
Moreover, the investigation into the procurement of the controversial lamps must set an example for other local administrations so such actions are not repeated.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org