Watchdog warns scheme may be open to widespread corruption
The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) yesterday urged the Cabinet to identify who in the government would be held responsible if damages arise from the government’s Bt350-billion water-management and flood-prevention modules.
The government’s Water and Flood Management Commission (WFMC) has been pushing hard for the implementation of these modules despite concerns and questions from different sectors.
Hence the NACC yesterday listed measures that the government should adopt in handling these modules.
“We have offered recommendations on how to achieve transparency,” NACC chief Klanarong Chanthik said.
According to the NACC, there is a risk that this project may be plagued by corruption or cause damages to the state because of several factors.
Among them is the fact that the WFMC is mandated to manage all the Bt350-billion projects. Established in the wake of the 2011 flood crisis, the WFMC is a relatively new agency.
The NACC has also expressed concerns about WFMC chairman Plodprasop Suraswadi’s dominance over the bidding process selection panel that has narrowed down the number of eligible bidders to just six.
Agency ‘has too much power’
The NACC is urging the WFMC to reveal the criteria used in the pre-qualification round and opinions of the selection panel’s members behind its decision. “The WFMC chairman seems to have all the decision-making power,” the NACC added.
The WFMC has already begun the bidding process for the Bt350-billion modules. Four qualified bidders have tendered their bids and the government appears set to sign contracts with winners before the end of June.
The WFMC has pointed out that since each module involves huge cost, not many firms can handle it, which is why so few have vied for the projects.
According to the NACC, there is also a risk that successful bidders may manipulate the environmental and health impact assessment (EHIA) as the turnkey method allows them to handle the assessment as well.
Pha Kongtham, leader of those affected by the Rasi Salai Dam project, said she strongly disagreed with the government’s move to implement the Bt350-billion project now, adding that projects of this scale should be subject to comprehensive impact assessments first.
“Water-management projects should not damage the environment or violate the rights of the communities,” she said.
Kongdej Khemnag, member of a conservation group in Khon Kaen, said there were enough problems left from old projects and it was not right for the government to push for new ones. “We don’t agree with the government,” he said.
Plodprasop, who is also a deputy prime minister, recently drew extra flak after he threatened to get protesters arrested if they showed up at the 2nd Asia-Pacific Water Summit in Chiang Mai and caused an uproar when he compared protesters to garbage.
Meanwhile, the Network of Northeastern People yesterday called for Plodprasop to resign.
“His words reflect his dictatorial nature and his lack of leadership,” the network’s Suwit Kularbwong said in his capacity as the secretary-general of the NGO Coordinating Committee on Development – Northeast.
Suwit said that if Plodprasop attended any water-management forum in the Northeast, locals would show up to chase him away.