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Thai PBS panel denies influencing research projects

THAI PBS’s policy committee has issued a second statement to clarify accusations concerning the Department of Special Investigation’s probe into procurements in regard to three media academic research projects for the TV station.

The committee reiterated that it did not interfere with the work of the station’s procurement panel, but only gave it guidelines for when considering projects.
The committee rejected the notion that some companies subcontracted by the station were close to some committee members, saying the station’s budget and spending was closely scrutinised by the Auditor-General’s Office. The station is also obliged to report its annual performance in Parliament. 
Committee members themselves have to report their assets to the National Anti-Corruption Commission, the statement said.
The statement followed news reports on Friday about the DSI probe and the subcontracted work, allegedly worth Bt700 million. 
The station faced pressure earlier this week after news broke that it had bought debentures worth Bt200 million from Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF), raising an ethical question among the public, because it is a public broadcaster.
Its director, Krisda Rueangareerat, resigned to show responsibility, but earlier defended his decision by saying the annual Bt2-billion budget from “sin taxes” was not enough to run the station. 
The station also issued a statement saying it would review its investment framework in the capital market and cease investments in some companies, without mentioning any specific companies, including CPF. 
ThaiPBS executives said in the statement they regretted the decision and wished to apologise to the public if their decision to purchase the debentures caused concerns. The purchase, they said, was aimed at maximising financial management of the organisation and adhered to the policy framework. 
The issue led the government to step in. Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said on Wednesday that he would send a letter to Thai PBS to ask for more information regarding its investment in debentures from CPF, after concerns were raised about the integrity and good governance of the public broadcaster.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha also responded to the issue, saying concerned officials were now taking care of the issue. 

Published : March 18, 2017

By : The Nation