Graft fight needs resolve
The fight against corruption in Thailand is a long winding road without any encouraging sign that the country will reach zero corruption as hoped. The latest analysis prepared by the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT) shows the government must work harder to achieve its target of eliminating graft.
ACT, an independent anti-corruption watchdog, has released an analysis about loopholes in more than 80,000 state contracts, which it said made these contracts prone to graft.
The analysis is based on an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm that looks into details of the contracts. According to the analysis, the top 10 state agencies whose projects need to be watched closely are the Royal Irrigation Department with 6,197 projects flagged as prone to abuse, followed by the Department of Provincial Administration (2,513), and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (2,111).
Next up are the Department of Rural Roads (1,966), Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (1,503), Department of Highways (1,020), Provincial Waterworks Authority (993), Metropolitan Waterworks Authority (949), Department of Water Resources (828) and the Provincial Electricity Authority (725).
The review did not mean that graft has taken place but it indicated many contracts have loopholes and are prone to corruption.
In some projects, many firms bought bidding envelopes though only a few of them actually took part in the auction.
In some cases, only one company offered a price close to the median price set by the state agency concerned. This suggested collusion among firms pretending to vie independently for the same projects.
The government or the agencies concerned need to take heed of ACT's review and plug the loopholes, to make their contracts and the bidding process corruption-proof.
Without action by these state agencies and the Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's led-government, Thailand's efforts to fight corruption will be just hollow words.
In an 2021 appraisal of corruption in 180 countries in a Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, Thailand's ranking slid from 101 to 104. The country's score has been unchanged for three years, at 36 out of 100. One core criteria is the transparency of information in the public sector.
The recent controversy about the procurement of street lamps by several local administration agencies is an example of a major loophole. Those local authorities insist that every process was lawful; despite that the decorative lamps are overpriced.
According to an anti-graft expert, corruption in several state projects starts at the beginning of the process when a budget is sought by local or national politicians. The gravity of corruption may not be easy to detect, unlike other crimes. Therefore, those who commit corrupt acts feel they can do so easily, especially as they do not see immediate adverse outcomes from their actions. Instead, they typically benefit, prompting them to commit further offences.
In many cases, graft involves mutual benefits. The givers of bribes are willing to give because they think this is worth it and the recipients are also glad to accept the bribes because they think this is an opportunity.
All agencies involved in the judicial process must adjust their roles and attach importance to administering justice in an accurate, fair, swift, transparent and accountable manner.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
Email : email@example.com