House eyes NACC probe in bribe saga

House eyes NACC probe in bribe saga

Santi denies panel sought kickback

House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.
House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.

Parliament will ask the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to inquire into an alleged bribe-taking attempt by a House sub-committee, said House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.

Mr Chuan said on Thursday he has assigned the parliament secretary-general to coordinate with the NACC. The commission will be asked to look into the matter.

If the NACC decides to launch a preliminary inquiry, the sub-committee in question that is scrutinising the budget expenditure bill will need to give its full cooperation, the House speaker said. Mr Chuan added that he also hoped the whistle blower official who exposed the issue will be willing to step forward.

The allegation was made by Sakda Wichiensilp, director-general of the Department of Groundwater Resources (DGR) while he was defending his agency's budget allocation to the sub-panel.

The department chief claimed some MPs belonging to sub-panels vetting the 2021 expenditure budget had demanded five million baht from his agency in exchange for not trimming a fund earmarked for building artesian wells.

It is one of several sub-panels examining the bill on the 3.3-trillion-baht budget slated for the next fiscal year starting in October. The legislation passed its first reading in the House last month.

Earlier, Deputy Finance Minister Santi Promphat, who chairs the House committee overseeing budget scrutiny by the related sub-panels, insisted the House sub-panels had no power to revise budget allocations and so it could not have demanded a bribe.

This week, the House committee on laws, justice and human rights will vote on whether a probe should be conducted into the bribery allegation, Sira Jenjaka, the committee chairman said, adding the issue has brought shame to parliament.

On Thursday, Mr Chuan said he wanted to see the committee to open an investigation into the allegation.

Meanwhile, Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a former senator and member of a budget scrutiny sub-panel, on Thursday handed a letter to Mr Chuan pressing for an immediate investigation. The probe team must compile evidence it will have to obtain from the DGR and the sub-panel. If there is substance to the allegation, the Office of the State Audit should be called to carry out a probe.

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