Youth groups seek fund release
A network of five youth groups is calling on the government to unfreeze the Thai Health Promotion Foundation’s budget, which has caused delays in the implementation of over 2,000 projects.
Theerapat Khahawong, coordinator of the Youth Network against New Drinkers, said while the network is in full support of the investigation into ThaiHealth's financial operations, the groups are among the fund's recipients and are facing hardship.
The spending freeze has been in effect for three months, he said.
As a result of the investigation by the Auditing Committee on Fiscal Expenditure (MACFE), projects funded by ThaiHealth with grants of more than five million baht a year must obtain approval from the committee chaired by Gen Chart-udom Titthasiri before they are disbursed.
Mr Theerapat said some groups have resorted to taking out loans to conduct their activities while waiting for the grants, plunging them into debt. Some foundations have cut staff or plan to suspend operations altogether, he added.
He said his network hopes the government will review the spending freeze and provide relief measures to the grantees.
Of more than 2,000 projects slated for ThaiHealth funding, many are activities against alcohol, gambling and risk factors that affect the quality of life of children and youth, said Mr Theerapat.
Representatives from the five groups wrote to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, calling on the government to swiftly address the problems in a show of appreciation for people volunteering to work for society.
Kamron Chudecha, coordinator of the Network of Alcohol Marketing Strategy, has joined the growing chorus about the budget freeze and voiced concerns about the tax investigations against fund recipients.
He said more than 10,000 staff have been affected due to the suspended disbursement of funds which are also earmarked as their allowances while the tax investigations against recipients of ThaiHealth's funds by the Department of Revenue are demoralising staff.
According to Mr Kamron, fund recipients are required to pay withholding taxes while their staff are paid allowances for their work and contributions.
He also questioned the timing of the Department of Revenue's intervention, saying ThaiHealth has operated for 10 years without being probed while its spending is subject to examination by the Office of the Auditor-General.
Meanwhile, Dr Poldej Pinpratheep, chair of the Local Development Institute, said he expects the budget freeze to be lifted soon.
Speaking during a radio interview, he said ThaiHealth's spending regulations have been tightened pending approval by the board, the Chart-udom committee and the prime minister.
Dr Poldej, former deputy minister for human security and social development, met Prime Minister Prayut to discuss ThaiHealth on Wednesday. Present at the meeting were Deputy Prime Minister Adm Narong Pipatanasai, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, ThaiHealth acting manager Supreeda Adulyanon and Gen Chart-udom.
Dr Poldej said the new spending regulations, once signed by the state budget monitoring and scrutinising committee and the prime minister, should lift the budget freeze.
"I understand they will be submitted to the ThaiHealth board for consideration on Jan 15, then Gen Chart-udom and the prime minister. ThaiHealth's fund disbursement should then return to normal," he said.
- Thai Health Foundation