The Move Forward Party (MFP) has launched its own investigation into claims of irregular spending for an event organised by the Department of Rice, saying state officials should be warned that the incoming government will not tolerate corruption in office.
At a press conference on Thursday, Karoonpon Tieansuwan, MFP deputy spokesman, said the party had received a complaint from officials in the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives about the lack of budgeting transparency for an event dubbed "Rice Day and National Farmers", which was held from June 5-7 at the department's headquarters.
Mr Karoonpon said the budget request becomes even more suspicious when the event's entire timeline is considered.
On Feb 20, the department earmarked 15 million baht to stage the event, which is aimed at sharing knowledge and best practices among rice farmers nationwide, at an event hall in Pathum Thani. A few weeks after, the department decided to hold the event at its headquarters, bringing down the budget needed to 7.5 million baht.
However, on May 9, it was decided that the event would be a three-day event instead of two. On the same day, the department revised its budget request to 12.5 million baht -- a five-million-baht jump for organising an extra day of activities -- a decision that was questioned by the complainants.
Later, the party discovered only one company out of the four invited took part in the bidding for the event. Mr Karoonpon said this company had won many contracts from the Department of Rice. Furthermore, a team of MFP members who visited the event said the number of visitors was far less than the 30,000 the department had claimed would attend the event in the bidding terms of references (TOR) and that many of the event's participants had been paid to show up at the event.
The party had previously estimated that state-owned agencies had spent over a billion baht to organise events in a year.
"In a MFP-led government, it will not happen. Any improper budget must be cancelled, as they should be used to fund the country's development and improve the quality of life," he said.
Meanwhile, department chief, Nattakit Kongthip, said everything followed ministerial regulations and the cabinet resolution.