Sasithara sacked for her role in overpriced purchase
OFFICE OF THE Education Council (OEC) secretary general Sasithara Pichaichannarong yesterday threatened to file criminal and civil lawsuits against six senior officials who voted to have her employment terminated in relation to her role in the purchase of overpriced instruction material for eight vocational colleges. The 2011 purchase allegedly cost the state more than Bt31 million in losses.
The decision to have the C-11 official formally sacked was made on Tuesday by an OEC panel after a four-hour meeting, said a statement from caretaker Minister Chaturon Chaisang, who chaired the meeting.
The panel has 12 members but only eight were present, of whom six cast a “yes” vote, while the other two abstained. This 12-strong panel acted upon the recommendation of a ministry disciplinary investigation panel that had earlier found Sasithara guilty of wrongly approving the payment of Bt31.5 million despite the fact that documents needed for this deal had been lost.
In a statement on Tuesday, Chaturon said Sasithara – then secretary-general of the Office of Vocational Education Commission – went ahead with the payment despite her deputy’s opposition. She also did not order a hunt for the lost documents.
Sasithara said yesterday that according to a 1998 Finance Ministry regulation, she would have been held responsible if the documents were misplaced after the payment was made. However, she said, this regulation did not apply because the documents were lost before she sent through the payment. Initially she had claimed that the two key documents were present, while those lost were not essential to the deal.
She then said that the four documents misplaced were a request for the approval of the purchase, a bidding announcement, a memorandum about the bidding announcement addressed to five government agencies that would advertise the
bidding and papers about the scope of the job. She insisted that the two key documents – the contract and the terms of reference – had not been lost.
Yesterday, Sasithara claimed that the disciplinary investigation process had violated regulations by not completing the mandatory fact-finding required. She said she had lodged a police complaint against the six unnamed officials, as well as against the person who issued the order to have her sacked. She said she was also taking the case to the Administrative Court before filing civil and criminal lawsuits.
When asked on Tuesday why she did not follow the rules, Sasithara insisted that the original copy of the contract, an attachment and a copy of the terms of reference – all of which were essential to the deal – had been intact before she approved the payment of Bt31.5 million to the contractors.
The disciplinary panel said it had found that there were two copies of the terms of reference, which contained different details. This resulted in the equipment purchased having different specifications from what was originally decided upon.
Sasithara’s decision resulted in the ministry paying Bt3.9 million per piece of equipment to the contractors even though the median price stood at Bt125,000 per piece as estimated by an appraiser, Chaturon’s statement said.