Fri, August 19, 2022

in-focus

Massive water project in East on hold amid questions over bidding process


The prime minister has instructed the Finance Ministry to look into alleged irregularities in the bidding process of a 25-billion-baht water management project and suspended the project indefinitely.

The project was to be finalised by the Treasury Department on Tuesday, but has been delayed pending investigation by the Finance Ministry, Government Spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said.

The bid for the water management project in the East of Thailand was won by Wong Siam Construction Co Ltd.

However, Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) MP Pichet Sathirachawal recently alleged that the bidding was not transparent. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha subsequently instructed the Finance Ministry to set up a panel to look into the bidding process closely.

When asked if the government fears this project might be cited by the opposition in the upcoming censure debate, Thanakorn said the authorities are trying to find out the facts and the investigation will be conducted fairly.

Pichet, leader of the ruling party’s so-called “Group of 16”, alleged on April 30 that the terms of reference for the bidding were suspiciously amended to allow Wong Siam Construction to participate.

The MP said that though Wong Siam Construction offered very high returns for the water management project, the company may not have the ability or the knowledge to replace the current concessionaire, Eastwater Group, to distribute and manage water in the East.

Pichet said the panel would also take into account stability in water management and distribution instead of just being motivated by a higher concession fee.

He pointed out that Eastwater was a subsidiary of the Provincial Waterworks Authority (PWA).

However, Deputy Finance Minister Santi Promphat, who is overseeing the project and its bidding process, insisted on Tuesday that the bidding was done transparently.

He also argued that Eastwater was not PWA’s subsidiary, and that PWA only holds a 40 per cent stake in the firm.

Santi said Eastwater lost the bid because it offered only THB24 billion for the 30-year concession, while Wong Siam Construction had offered THB25.6 billion.

“The Treasury Department held the bidding properly and had taken all necessary steps,” he added.

The deputy minister also pointed out that Eastwater had only paid THB552 million for its previous 30-year concession, and the Treasury Department decided to seek a higher bid once the concession expired.

“The company that lost the bidding should be asked why it did not give this much money in the past,” said Santi, who is also secretary-general of the ruling party.

When asked if Pichet would be allowed to remain in the party now that he has questioned the party secretary-general’s decision, Santi only said, “The media can answer this question for me”.

He said that if the opposition questioned the decision related to the project during the next censure debate, he would be ready to clear all doubts.

Published : May 03, 2022

By : THE NATION