Permanent secretary Panita accuses Santi of slander, neglecting duties
Panita Kambhu na Ayutthaya, the permanent secretary of the Social Development and Human Security Ministry who was recently shunted to an inactive post by the minister, Santi Promphat, yesterday threatened to sue him for slander.
She also cast doubt on Santi for dereliction of duty for failing to sign two replies she made to two statements from the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) acknowledging that Bt32 million in leftover budget had been returned as required to the Social Development and Welfare Department, which she headed four years ago.
Panita said she never thought an OAG investigation would lead to her being transferred. The OAG had informed former minister Issara Somchai of an irregularity by a former permanent secretary, who is allegedly Panita’s predecessor.
It found that the Bt32 million had not been spent and had not been returned to the department, and recommended taking disciplinary action against the unnamed person.
The OAG investigation also initially implicated Panita but she could defend herself with reasons included in the replies, and the OAG went ahead with the probe and later found that a former permanent secretary was at fault.
She said Santi was slow in following up on the OAG investigation all along and finally failed to sign its statements.
After making her statement at Rajvithi Residence, she was met by some 500 people who had gathered outside to show their support. They included a group of activists for women, a youth group and ministry officials dressed in black to demonstrate their opposition to her snap transfer.
She dismissed news reports that she was moved out of the ministry because she “had not gone along” with an expensive project to construct a new office building for the ministry.
“I never uttered a word on that project, because I cherish the ministry’s dignity. All I would like to refer to is the OAG investigation,” she said without explaining.
Panita, one year away from retirement, said she would lodge a criminal defamation lawsuit against Santi, for giving negative information against her, which affected her family socially.
However, she felt sorry for Santi for selecting the “wrong people” as his advisers, without identifying them.
Pheu Thai partylist MP Prawat Uttamote, Panita’s brother, brought up the issue in a party meeting and confronted Santi before accusing him of disrespecting him and Panita, and vowing not to respect Santi in return.
Prawat later said the “wrong people” were a group of four senior ministry officials who were Santi’s advisers.
“My sister is a woman and alone in defending herself and I’m entitled to protect her,” he said.
“The Gang of Four had been targeting my sister a few months after she took the [permanent secretary] post.
“You can check out who are the senior ministry officials serving as Santi’s advisers,” he added.
Prawat and Panita later had a personal meeting with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was seen hugging Panita after a brief chat. Yingluck also received a written complaint from her and reportedly promised to look into the matter.
Jaroonsak Noosrikaew, the leader of the youth group, after meeting with shifting Panita to the PM’s Office.