Govt opens up on secret spend

Govt opens up on secret spend

Defence, security 'require secrecy'

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's operations centre offers some details of the government's so-called secret budget allocations.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's operations centre offers some details of the government's so-called secret budget allocations.

The government has offered some details of its so-called secret budget allocations to counter opposition criticism that it should be more transparent about public money going on defence.

The Prime Minister Operations Centre (PMOC) revealed the details on its Facebook page, the first time such information about government classified allocations to state agencies has been made public.

The PMOC said secret allocations set aside in the 3.1-trillion-baht budget bill for the fiscal year 2022 make up 0.03% of the total, or 930 million baht.

Between 2004 and 2006, secret allocations accounted for 0.05% of the entire budget each year, said the PMOC.

The PMOC defined a secret budget or allocation as a government budget intended for confidential work by a state organisation, which normally deals with a wide range of areas including national security, economic security, political security, social security and technological security.

These secret allocations are normally spent on funding secret operations of government organisations involving defence, narcotics suppression, intelligence and other types of confidential work required to protect public interest, said the PMOC.

The centre said the spending must adhere to regulations on secret budget spending by the Prime Minister's Office issued in 2004.

In term of scrutiny, the Office of the Auditor General also issued a regulation in 2002 to be used as a tool to scrutinise such spending.

A source in the national security agency said a huge amount of the money set aside in secret allocations goes on security affairs in the deep South.

He admitted that scrutiny of how well it is spent depends on subordinates responsible for the operations.

Legal expert an former MP, Preecha Suwanthat, pointed out in an article published by Isara news agency that there are many limitations which hinder the process of examining such spending.

The main hindrance is the fact these budgets are allowed to be spent secretly and the cabinet can later approve additional amounts of money, which once again are not subject to scrutiny, he said.

Mr Preecha said a secret budget has been set aside of not less than 190 million baht for the army every year since 2013.

Personally, he did not oppose the allocation of a fiscal budget for classified operations, as some defence or security activity by its nature must remain confidential. However, some details should be included in the government's fiscal budget bill for the sake of transparency.

Yutthapong Charasathien, an opposition Pheu Thai Party MP for Maha Sarakham who is also a member of the House committee vetting the budget bill, earlier announced the party would scrutinise the government's secret allocations.

He said at least 500 million baht has been set aside as secret spending for the Defence Ministry without detail on what it will be spent on.

Pheu Thai has also discovered that about 558 million baht more is proposed for the PM's Office as well, he said.

Pheu Thai MPs sitting on the House committee are vowing to have these unnecessary budgets cut, especially the 500-million-baht secret allocation for the Defence Ministry, with the government still refusing to say how it will be be spent, he said.

The budget contains in secret allocations some 290 million baht for the army, 62 million baht for the navy, 30 million baht to the air force, 32 million baht to Office of the Permanent Secretary for Defence and 55 million baht to the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters, he said.

Mr Yutthapong said even the Foreign Ministry and the Labour Ministry have similar funds at their disposal.

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