The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) yesterday defended the e-bidding process to find contractors for two of its double-track rail projects valued at 128 billion baht, saying everything was being done by the book.
The rail agency's response followed a Facebook post by Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT), questioning its transparency and calling for public scrutiny.
At the centre of the controversy are the 323-kilometre northern section from Den Chai to Chiang Rai-Chiang Kong and the 355-km northeastern section between Mukdahan and Nakhon Phanom.
The Den Chai-Chiang Khong project, valued at 72.9 billion baht, is made up of three construction contracts while the northeastern Ban Phai-Nakhon Phanom route worth 55.4 billion baht has been split into two contracts.
Suranadet Thupawirot, the SRT's chief engineer for construction and special projects, yesterday countered four allegations relating to Mr Mana's post.
He said the projects had been divided into larger contracts, instead of six smaller ones, to prevent delays that could have extended to two years given the experiences learnt from the implementation of similar, previous lines.
Regarding the suggestion of price collusion, he insisted the SRT was in compliance with all relevant state procurement laws and bidding regulations and would run background checks on potential bidders with regards to both their suitability for the construction and their legal history.
He insisted that the e-bidding process was the most transparent way of preventing price collusion in government projects.
Claims that foreign firms should have been invited to tender bids she not be laid at the SRT's door, he said, as the body was merely following the government's "Thai First" policy, and foreign companies would be allowed to partner up with Thai firms further down the line.
Six companies and/or consortiums are expected to take part in the e-bidding with the results for the Den Chai-Chiang Khong project expected on July 8 and the Ban Phai-Nakhon Phanom section on July 15.