3G auction probe could snare four

3G auction probe could snare four

Committee members' approval under review

Four members of the committee organising the third-generation (3G) auction last October may face an investigation after a panel found irregularities in the auction's design.

The subcommittee of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) found irregularities in the auction design for 3G spectra that could affect members of the telecom committee of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

However, a well-placed NBTC source said the investigation process will not affect existing 3G users and licensees.

"If the subcommittee reaches a conclusion in its probe, it then has to submit the finding to the NACC's board for consideration," the source said.

If the board agrees with the subcommittee's conclusion, the four members of the NBTC's telecom committee who voted in favour of the auction details will be temporarily suspended until the probe is completed, said the source.

The inquiry is to determine whether the telecom committee violated Section 14 of the Collusion Act.

NACC chairman Parnthep Klanarongran said the subcommittee was preparing to call the four commissioners to acknowledge the allegations, but he has not received any notification.

Prawit Leesathapornwongsa, a commissioner of the telecom committee, likewise said he had received no formal notice.

Mr Prawit was the only member of the telecom committee to vote against the 3G auction design and methods.

Prasert Apipunya, a member of the NBTC's newly founded superboard, said he learned in the last few weeks that the subcommittee had reached a conclusion, but no investigative result has been confirmed.

Last Oct 25, the NACC board resolved to set up a subcommittee to investigate members of the NBTC's telecom committee regarding the 3G spectrum auction of Oct 16.

The subcommittee is chaired by Pakdee Pothisiri and Jaided Pornchaiya.

The move by the NACC came after the Senate committee on good governance called for a probe into the 3G bidding process, which saw all three mobile operators awarded spectra in an auction criticised as uncompetitive and underpriced.The sale fetched about 41.6 billion baht overall, just 2.8% above the reserve price.

The Senate committee doubted that the 3G bidding process was designed to encourage collusion among the three bidders.

The NBTC last December announced a statement of intention to help calm public concerns by ordering the three 3G operators to slash 3G tariff rates for both voice and data services by 15-20%.

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