The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) yesterday agreed to allow caretaker Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong to postpone his testimony to the agency over the rice-pledging scheme.
Kittiratt cited an official duty to attend a World Bank meeting in Washington DC, an NACC source said yesterday.
Meanwhile, Norawit Larlaeng, a lawyer authorised by caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, said the premier had instructed lawyer Bancha Porameesanaporn to object to the NACC resolution allowing for only three witnesses to give testimony, out of the 11 witnesses she had named.
The three people the NACC accepted are caretaker Commerce Minister Niwatthumrong Boonsongpaisan, his deputy Yanyong Phuangrach and Kittiratt.
The lawyer would request that the NACC review its resolution in order to allow four additional witnesses, including caretaker Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, as the official who was in charge of investigating alleged corruption in the scheme; Deputy National Police chief Pol General Worapong Chewprecha, head of a team investigating alleged corruption in the scheme; caretaker PM’s Office Minister and Deputy Agriculture Minister Varathep Ratanakorn; and Pichai Chunha-vajira, president of the Federation of Accounting Professions.
The NACC had earlier said it would allow officials who were involved in the project in some way to give testimony.
The NACC source said Yanyong had submitted a letter to the commission confirming he would testify today, and Niwatthumrong tomorrow.
The NACC is investigating Yingluck on charges of malfeasance and dereliction of duty for her alleged failure to stop losses from the rice-pledging scheme, before deciding whether to indict her.
Yingluck said she had assigned her lawyer to object to the NACC on two issues.
The first is an objection against Vicha Mahakun as an NACC member – her third such objection – and the second is objection is against the NACC’s decision to allow only three witnesses.
Yingluck said she had asked four more witnesses who are officials overseeing details at the operational level, while she herself was in charge of policy.
Bancha called on Vicha to withdraw as an NACC member investigating the case, because he had earlier given an interview at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus in which he said 2 million tonnes of rice have gone missing from warehouses, though the case has not yet been resolved.
The lawyer also said he asked the NACC to allow testimony from Somchai Sajjapongse, director-general of the Fiscal Policy Office (FPO), to counter testimony given by Finance Ministry deputy permanent secretary Supa Piyajitti.
Supa is also chairman of the Post-Audit Committee supplying figures on the agricultural-produce pledging scheme, and has been accused by Yingluck’s camp of providing figures on the rice-pledging scheme counter to post-audit practice.