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Panel urges changes to wipe out patronage

TOO MANY government officials are accustomed to a patronage culture that encourages selective treatment and nepotism at the expense of the nation, the head of a panel tasked with wiping out favouritism says.

“The patronage system causes damage in various dimensions. For example, it discourages many talented people from working in the government sector,” Admiral Saksit Cherdboonmuang said yesterday in his capacity as chair of the National Legislative Assembly’s (NLA) ad-hoc committee on how to fight the deeply-entrenched patronage system.
His committee has recently compiled a 367-page report with detailed proposals on how to end the domination of the patronage system in Thailand’s bureaucracy. 
The report says the patronage system encourages nepotism and may even lead to corruption. 
Saksit said that when it came to the delivery of government services, people who noticed the patronage culture within the bureaucracy would even adopt bad value. 
“They will think they just can’t go through normal channels of service delivery. They will think they need to find personal connections to get good services,” he said. 

Plug legal loopholes
He lamented that patronage had long been a part of the bureaucracy, pushing civil servants to prioritise personal relationships over a merit-based system. 
“It encourages junior officials to kow-tow to senior officials, who in turn bow to political-office holders so as to maintain beneficial relationships. In this cycle, businesspeople have also lobbied government officials and political-office holders.” 
Saksit said his committee had compiled guidelines on how to stop the patronage culture from damaging the bureaucracy. 
“We can achieve this goal by promoting the right value, improving laws, overhauling the bureaucracy and engaging the civil sector in our efforts,” he said. 
The report recommends updating laws and plugging legal loopholes and advises government agencies to ban free gifts, feasts, and bribes. Government officials are advised to avoid playing golf with people who may pose a conflict of interest. 
Proposed measures suggest that retirees refrain from serving as an adviser to a firm that has had contacts with their previous agency for at least two years after retirement. 
The report adds that senior officials should reduce the number of assistants, because close work relations can also foster patronage feelings. 
The report also stresses that legal processes should move fast to ensure justice when complaints of nepotism, abuse of authority or corruption arise. 
Klanarong Chanthick, an NLA member, added that social pressure would be a powerful means to discourage wrongdoing. “So, it is important we inculcate the right values and attitudes among people,” he said. 

Published : December 23, 2016

By : Prapasri Osathanon The Nation