Chadchart needs to act
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Chadchart needs to act

Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt's anti-graft fighting efforts have so far largely been passively bureaucratic and, at best, reactive, despite his 2022 campaign promises to uproot corruption at City Hall.

Recent reports about overly pricey gym equipment, including treadmills at 759,000 baht each and exercise bikes at 484,000 baht apiece, for public sports centres indicate that blatant corruption at Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) remains in place.

This week, Mr Chadchart launched a probe into the expensive gym equipment and promised to forward the findings to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), just as he has done with other graft cases.

But the exposure of the alleged corrupt procurement deal was not the work of the BMA's internal graft auditing process and not an internal campaign to prevent corruption. It was brought to light by a civic group named "The Strong Thailand Anti-Corruption", which made accusations of public money being used to purchase overpriced gym equipment at seven sports centres, costing taxpayers 103.2 million baht.

Like many government agencies, public infrastructure projects and procurement deals in BMA have been linked to acts of corruption.

Last year, the NACC exposed a Ratchathewi district official who was asking for a bribe from a business developer who went to the NACC for help.

Last month, the NACC again accused an official at BMA's Department of Engineering of seeking a bribe to change road cutting and land expropriation to spare a business developer.

So far, the most visible mechanism to fight graft that Mr Chadchart has introduced is the "Traffy Fondue" online App developed by Thailand's National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (Nectec) to let individuals lodge complaints with local governments in provinces.

The platform, which has been used in other provinces, has been embraced by the Bangkok governor, who has encouraged the public to lodge all problems on it, from missing manhole covers to acts of corruption.

But is it not enough to deal with systematic corruption that is ingrained in the bureaucratic process. To deter corruption, Mr Chadchart needs to improve internal auditing and, above all, penalise wrongdoers -- not just wait for a whistleblower and the NACC to bring such issues to light.

Indeed, there are two cases that he should address right away to show that his electoral pledge to fight corruption is more than lip service.

First is the case of the 6-billion-baht Ashton Asoke condo project in the Watthana district of Bangkok. In August of last year, the BMA launched a probe against officials after the Administrative Court ruled that the construction permit issued by the BMA was illegal and violated building codes. After nine months, Mr Chadchart needs to tell the public how the BMA holds these accused officials accountable and what it will do with this case.

Another case is the Aetas Hotel and the serviced apartment project in Soi Ruamrudee. The Administrative Court ordered the BMA to demolish the illegally modified part of this building seven years ago, and BMA officials were implicated in issuing illegal permits, but nothing has happened.

To deter corruption, Mr Chadchart needs more than his favourite app. He should make use of his clean image and get proactive in uprooting corruption from City Hall.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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