Thaksin-era corruption'cost state Bt400 bn'
Systematic corruption involving 95 mega-projects carried out over the five and a half years of the Thaksin administration probably cost the state coffers about Bt400 billion, according to a recently published study.
"Policy corruption" was rampant during the Thaksin years, Assoc Professor Supannee Chai-amporn of the National Institute of Development Administration and her colleague Sirinthip Arun-rue say in their research paper, "Forms and Processes of Corruption in Government Large Projects".
Policy corruption is a new, sophisticated form of official graft that works to shield the wrongdoers from prosecution due to its legality, even though the consequences abuse the public's interest, the researchers write.
In terms of public policy formulation, policy corruption is also unethical, because taxpayers' money is squandered and consumers are exploited.
Based on statistics from the National Economic and Social Development Board, 95 large infrastructure projects with a combined investment of Bt1.35 trillion were implemented by the government since 2001. Government expenditure of Bt220 billion on Suvarnabhumi Airport and related projects were considered separately.
Policy corruption, as well as conventional forms of fraud such as bid collusion, rigging of project specifications and bribery, altogether added 5 per cent-30 per cent to the cost of government projects, the academics' research showed.
If the corruption consistently reached the 30-per-cent level, the sums siphoned off would be about Bt450 billion for the 95 large government projects and Bt73 billion for the new airport and related projects. The lower total of Bt400 billion for all the projects seemed reasonable.
"Politicians, bureaucrats and contractors are all involved in the process. If the amount is more than Bt100 million, they prefer to pay overseas using various methods, such as opening a letter of credit to take the money out of the country", the report says.
"Or they may use an illegal money-laundering service or casinos to park the funds outside the country for three to five years before they are repatriated.
"If the amount of corrupt money is less, say, Bt20 million to Bt50 million, they'd make the payment domestically. Usually, kickbacks are paid in cash stashed in suitcases hand-delivered to the homes of the receivers.
"Some contractors also like to hand over the money in the parking lot of a well-known department store in the Lat Phrao area, putting the bills into the store's large shopping bags.
"We're also told that the money is often stuffed into an empty paper box of a popular Scotch whisky brand and then presented to junior government officials as gifts. A box usually contains banknotes worth Bt250,000," the researchers said.
Any effective measures to tackle official corruption, which is deeply ensconced in Thai society and politics, need to start with the country's top political leader, the study said.
Then, the government and civil society organisations should work together to solve the problem.