July 04, 2012 00:00 By Thanapong Krongsai, Chularat
Bangkok Governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra said yesterday that no individual or agency had the right to interfere in the city administration's constitutionally-enshrined mandate to provide public services, such as the Skytrain system, to its residents.
He made this statement after the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) announced it plans to intervene in the 30-year Skytrain management contract awarded to BTSC.
“The Constitution’s Article 281 clearly states that the state shall give autonomy to a local government organisation in line with the principles of self-governance and the will of the people in a locality. The local government organisation is also given the autonomy to become a principle public-services provider in the vicinity,” the governor said.
A highly-placed source at the DSI, however, revealed that the department’s board had not given up on the case yet.
“We are waiting for a confirmation from the Interior Ministry on the fact that it is the Interior minister, not the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, that has the mandate to decide on the Skytrain contract,” he said on condition of anonymity.
DSI is looking into allegations that the BMA and its legal investment arm, Krungthep Tanakom (KT), had deliberately evaded laws to award the contract to BTSC, the current operator of the Skytrain system.
Under the Bt190-billion contract, BTSC will operate and provide maintenance services for two Skytrain extension routes for 30 years, in addition to another 13 years for the existing network.
BTSC already holds a 30-year concession for the original Skytrain system, which has a combined length of 23.5 kilometres and 23 stations.
According to one law, the decision to extend a concession lies with the interior minister, though the BMA is now saying that it has only “hired” BTSC.
“But if you look into details, you will realise that it is a concession in essence, and the words are very carefully chosen to evade the law,” the DSI source said. He added that the DSI would not consider taking the case until it receives confirmation from the Interior ministry.
Meanwhile, at a seminar on the contract awarded to the BTSC, Democrat Party deputy spokesman Sakoltee Phattiyakul said that there was bound to be a political agenda behind the attack on BMA.
“This issue has been politicised because the gubernatorial elections in Bangkok will be held pretty soon and also because KT’s chairman is Praphanpong Vejjajiva,” Sakoltee said.
Praphanpong is related to opposition and Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva.
“Why should the DSI intervene, when the Bangkok governor is a political office holder? Any investigations against him should be conducted by the National Anti-Corruption Commission,” Sakoltee said.
As for the contract granted to his company, BTSC executive Anat Arbhabhirama praised Sukhumbhand for making a decision that would guarantee people world-class public transport services.
Bannasophit Mekwichai, a former deputy Bangkok governor, said all sides should stop fighting and do things for the benefit of the public.
“Stop thinking that when your group starts a project, that project must belong to you alone,” she said.
However, the DSI source said that the government should have a say on the Skytrain system because it was part of a nationwide transport network.
“Transportation systems would be more integrated if the central government was part of the decision-making process. That’s why the mandate to decide on stuff like a long-term Skytrain contract should lie with a minister,” he said.