Anti-embezzlement pricing fixes due by year-end
The revised reference prices to be used for future auctions to prevent embezzlement are expected to be completed this year.
The current reference prices have been exploited for budget embezzlement or so-called “change money”, Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said, adding that if there is change money in auctions, it indicates that the reference prices are inaccurate.
“We want the reference prices to be able to reflect the actual price the most. Reference prices should not be set far higher than the real prices,” he said.
The Finance Ministry has formed a committee tasked with revising the reference price. The committee is chaired by the head of the Comptroller-General’s Department, and members include representatives from the private sector and academics who have insight into government bidding.
The panel hopes to gain the public’s trust and ensure that the new reference prices result in less leakage.
Mr Apisak himself recently said that auctions over the past few years saw winning bids averaging 17-18% below the benchmarks. He said the Comptroller-General’s Department should consider lowering reference prices to better reflect market value.
In the meantime, he moved to dispel the private sector’s concerns that the new, stricter Government Procurement and Supplies Management Act, effective from last August, would delay public investment.
Mr Apisak said 55.6% of the annual investment budget worth 577 billion baht has been committed during the six months to March, suggesting that the new law has not been the cause of delays in budget disbursement.
He said that the new law, based on OECD guidelines, is aimed at preventing corruption in state bidding.
As part of anti-graft efforts, the government has adopted an integrity pact whereby procurement for infrastructure projects is monitored by observers.
According to the integrity pact, both state agencies and bidders are required to declare that they will abstain from collusion, bribery and other forms of corruption in the project.
Signatories also consent to letting a third party monitor the entire process, including bidding and transactions, to ensure transparency.
To also ensure that observers are free from political influence, they must be selected by the Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand and the Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking.