Friday, February 2, 2007

Good Old Boys Network: Corruption and Collusion at Bangkok Airport

Politicians and business may have colluded on airport

Investigators believe two contractorsof Airports of Thailand Plc colluded with 22 politicians and officials accused of involvement in the "overpriced" procurement of a baggage-handling system for Suvarnabhumi airport. The system included the 26 CTX bomb-scanning machines.

A source in the inquiry team said on Thursday that a sub-panel under the Assets Scrutiny Committee, chaired by Amnuay Tantara, will ask the ASC on Monday to file a complaint against ITO Joint Venture and Quatrotec as well as six of their representatives of criminal offences for their alleged collusion.

Its decision was based on the testimony of witnesses that indicated the two companies had colluded with the 22 accused people to force AoT to accept the overpriced quotations, the source said.

The ASC has already filed a complaint against deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ex-transport minister Suriya Juengrungruangkit and despite their lack of experience, and for accepting their overpriced

According to the findings revealed partly by the ASC, the AoT board in 2003 hired ITO Joint Venture to design a baggage-handling system for Suvarnabhumi and contracted Quatrotec, which was established only
shortly before the deal, to verify the design.

The job contracted to Quatrotec was also found to have overlapped with that of another AoT contractor.

It took Quatrotec only one day to approve ITO's multi-billion-baht design.

ITO was also allowed to quote 3.99 billion baht for providing and installing the baggage-handling system. But the firm instead paid its sub-contractor 3.09 billion baht to do the job.

Its quotation for the procurement of the CTX machines was also found to be higher than their real value by 665 million baht. When the CTX deal with ITO was scrapped, AoT purchased the machines directly from GE
InVision at an aggregate "overpriced" amount of US$35 million (about 1.2 billion baht) with ITO acting as buyer of the machines.

The source said six representatives of the firms who would face criminal charges included Tawatchai Suthiprapa of ITO, and Woravit Wisutchai of Quatrotec. The two represented the companies in signing
the deals with AoT and in receiving payments. There is one foreigner in the group.

If the ASC agrees with the inquiry team's proposal, the companies and the six people will be charged with criminal offences under Articles 3 and 11 of the Act Governing Wrongdoings of Officials of State Agencies,
and Article 157 of the Criminal Code.

ASC chairman Nam Yimyaem yesterday refused to consider a request by the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry for advice on whether it could extend a rubber sapling deal with Charoen Pokphand Seeds.

Mr Nam said the ASC had nothing to do with the matter and the ministry should make its own decision whether to pursue that contract.

CP Seeds won the bidding to provide 90 million rubber saplings for the government's rubber farm expansion programme, which was found to be plagued by irregularities.

Agriculture Minister Thira Sutabutra said the ministry may have to extend the deadline for CP Seeds to deliver the remaining saplings. CP Seeds declined to comment.

I want to give a shout out to The Bangkok Post for having the courage to print the names of Thai contractors and companies that are knee deep in corruption.

Now, who was responsible for building the runways and taxiways? Who was responsible for floors and windows? Who was responsible for the King Power contract? Who was responsible for opening the airport when it wasn't safe? How come the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation, the entity responsible for financing and auditing, is allowed to get away with not doing its oversight duties?

The Nation gripes about corruption all the time, but never names names. When will it start to take after the Bangkok Post's professionalism?

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