No more nepotism
A report revealing that a number of military-appointed senators have practised nepotism by hiring their relatives as assistants or working teams has caused a stir.
The controversy was disclosed by the non-profit Internet Dialogue on Law Reform (iLaw) which also reported that some senators, while not appointing relatives in their own teams, secured jobs in their colleagues' teams for their cousins in what could be seen as a conflict of interest.
Senate Speaker Pornpetch Wichitcholchai has defended the hirings, saying there are no laws prohibiting senators from hiring next-of-kin.
Moreover, Sen Pornpetch said such practices are rampant in the Lower House.
A senator has quite a big team. Each can hire one expert, who is entitled to a 24,000-baht per month salary, and seven assistants, each paid 15,000 baht.
A senator receives a 71,230-baht salary and another sum totalling 42,330 baht for his or her position, plus a meeting allowance and per diems. During May 2019-2022, the state paid more than 2.3 billion baht for the senators' assistants.
Such hiring raises a question about the appropriateness or lack thereof.
Yet it's not unprecedented.
Back in 2014, several members of the then junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly (NLA) which was regarded as a rubber stamp for the National Council for Peace and Order also hired their relatives as assistants; it was the same with the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA).
While serving as an NRSA member, Wanchai Sornsiri, who is now a senator, appointed his daughter as his assistant. He was adamant there was nothing wrong in hiring next-of-kin for the position as long as the relatives really worked for them. However, strong public sentiment against such hiring practices prompted assembly member Suwat Singhapan to set a better standard by making his own relatives work pro bono.
Finally, both the NRSA and NLA issued a resolution, prohibiting family business in the establishment. But quite a few members just shrugged it off and now the senate is in hot water for the same practice.
Following a petition by the Thai Sang Thai Party, the House committee on corruption and misconduct, led by Pol Gen Sereepisuth Temeeyaves, has agreed to look into the matter.
The probe which was to begin yesterday is to see if such an act is wrong in accordance with Section 185 of the charter that prohibits members of parliament from having conflicts of interest.
Meanwhile, Sen Pornpetch has argued that if the senators are to come under scrutiny, members of the Lower House should also face a similar probe as it's known that quite a few MPs also appoint their relatives as assistants.
Parliament has already set clear criteria regarding qualifications for senators' or MPs' assistants: those employed must possess knowledge and experience in parliamentary affairs.
Contrary to claims by the senate speaker that hiring family members into the position is lawful, such an act constitutes a breach of ethics and must be regarded as a form of corruption.
The Sereepisuth panel should expand its probe to cover members of the Lower House and set a clear ethical line. Needless to say, senators and MPs who are lawmakers have moral obligations to avoid all kinds of conflicts of interest. They similarly need to keep in mind they are public role models and must act accordingly.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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