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Fact-finders see signs of graft in sustainable agricultural plan

A FACT-FINDING committee has detected alleged irregularities in the implementation of a project designed to promote sustainable agricultural development based on King Rama IX’s initiatives. The Cabinet approved Bt22.8 billion for this national project last year.

The budget will be handed out to 9,101 agricultural communities across the country, each receiving about Bt2.5million.
Some farmers, suspected that corruption might have plagued the project’s implementation in their hometown, given that supplies related to the project were much higher than market prices. 
The farmers then submitted complaints to Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha via a government complaint-receiving centre. 
Colonel Manop Khaikhuntod, who heads a panel investigating alleged corruption involving the project in Kalasin province, disclosed recently that there were irregularities during project implementation. 
“We will nudge the province’s revenue and commerce offices to investigate two implicated shops,” he said.
While Doctor Kaset is the only supplier in the project, receipts given to buyers are issued by Boonma Panich, Manop said. 
An inspection at the address of Boonma Panich found that the place is not functioning as a shop, but rather as a house. The house owner said Boonma Yartprachum, who has registered Boonma Panich, was not at home when officials showed up to check. 
“But we have received information that he is a relative of Doctor Kaset’s owner,” Manop said. “We suspect that his shop was registered only to help Doctor Kaset evade high tax rates.
“Moreover, we have found that community committees, which mostly comprise community leaders, have signed the purchase contracts. By regulation, farmers’ groups must be the ones preparing such contracts,” Manop said. 
He spoke publicly after his committee investigated financial transactions involving the project for two local communities in Kalasin’s Yang Talat district: Bua Ban 1 and Bua Ban 2. Manop said his committee had also found that the committees were unable to produce important documents, including the list of member farmers and meeting reports. 
The probe also found that each bag of Clarias feed with at least 25-per-cent protein cost about Bt600 during the project’s implementation, while that bag would be available for no more than Bt450 on the open market. 
Manop further said the probe found that one private company had been chosen as the only supplier for 39 procurement plans in Kalasin’s Kuchinarai district under the project. 
“We have found that only one other company had submitted bids to compete in the auctions. And it had strangely lost in all auctions,” he said. 

Published : January 28, 2018