Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered authorities to revise guidelines for the Thai Health Promotion Foundation's spending methods, saying the current guidelines are ambiguous and confusing.
"I found some of the current guidelines too broad. They need revision. Authorities working on it must make them more precise," Gen Prayut said.
It's hard to know how to take action against officials who might spend the funds improperly, the premier added.
Gen Prayut was speaking on Tuesday after the cabinet meeting which discussed a report on how money has been spent under ThaiHealth, which is funded by earmarked taxes, not through the normal budget system.
Gen Prayut ordered the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)'s audit panel to examine the foundation's spending recently after receiving information that ThaiHealth's budget this year was not spent properly.
More than half of the foundation's funds went to activities unrelated to health promotion, according to the NCPO's panel.
Gen Chatudom Tittasiri, chairman of the NCPO-appointed panel which looks into suspicious spending of state funds, said the review seeks to ensure accountability but it does not mean the foundation's projects have been cancelled.
The funds are intended to be spent on activities that improve people's health, promote the well-being of the public and enhance the quality of life, he said.
If the funds are not spent in line with the intended purpose, people would not benefit from the projects, Gen Chatudom said.
Legal action would be taken against authorities who are found to have spent the budget improperly, the premier said.
Gen Prayut had assigned the Justice Ministry to investigate authorities involved in ThaiHealth's improper spending.
In response to the premier's order, Justice Minister Paiboon Kumchaya said yesterday he would hold talks with ThaiHealth's representatives to discuss how the funds were spent.
Gen Paiboon said his subordinates are checking the findings provided by the NCPO's audit panel.
Insisting ThaiHealth had spent according to its objectives, its manager Krissada Rueng-areerat said on Monday every project which the foundation approved had received prior screening by experts in related fields. Even small projects were approved by experts.