White-haired man, Jeh Daeng 'pocketed B30bn'
Bangkok: The government came under heavy fire over alleged irregularities in the spending of its 120-billion-baht flood rehabilitation and prevention budget during the last day of the censure debate yesterday.
Leading the debate on the issue, Democrat MP for Phatthalung Nipit Intarasombat claimed "commissions" of 30% of project values were collected during the bidding for procurement of flood rehabilitation and prevention schemes.
He said the commission had been pocketed by a woman named "Jeh Daeng" and "a white-haired man" who once worked at the Interior Ministry, but he did not elaborate on the actual identities of the two people.
Mr Nipit said he had checked the spending of the central budget to restore and preserve water sources in Khon Kaen by the Water Resources Department and found some irregularities in 20 contracts worth more than 59 million baht.
He discovered that the digging of wells, which are part of the contracts, were not carried out, he said.
Mr Nipit said that 2.56 billion baht had been spent on developing water sources in six provinces in the Northeast and irregularities had been found in projects worth at least 1 billion baht.
He said there are more than 900 such contracts nationwide and he claimed that 30% of the value of all projects, or at least 30 billion baht, had been pocketed by Jeh Daeng and the white-haired man.
Democrat list-MP Nipon Boonyamanee then took the floor and said a private company was awarded 43 flood rehabilitation projects.
Pitpibul Co was registered with the Water Resources Department on Jan 27 and is allowed to receive contracts worth no more than 50 million baht.
However, the company won the 43 projects worth more than 100 million baht in the Northeast despite the fact that the company had a registered capital of only 1 million baht, Mr Nipon said.
One of the company's registrants has a surname of Sittipunt and it was found that she is related to Transport Minister Chatchart Sithipan, Mr Nipon said.
But Mr Chatchart yesterday denied any involvement with Pitpibul.
Democrat MP Nipon said the company was owned by Nilrat Sittipunt, who claimed to be a relative to Mr Chatchart.
The minister dismissed Mr Nipon's allegation, saying the woman's family name was pronounced similarly to his, but is spelled differently.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Preecha Rengsomboonsuk said if any irregularities were found in the water resources development projects in Khon Kaen, the government was ready to take action against those involved.
Mr Preecha said he had set up a committee to investigate the matter.
He said Pitpibul was a registered company entitled to enter the bidding.
Democrat MP for Ranong Wirat Romyen attacked the government for alleged irregularities involving the spending of the flood rehabilitation budget, and particularly the funds to repair flood-damaged roads.
He claimed evidence of graft had been found in the Interior Ministry's 47.28-million-baht project to repair a 7.2km road in Nakhon Nayok's Muang district.
He said the project set a median price at 5.9 million baht per kilometre _ higher than the price of 2.7 million baht set under normal bidding procedures.
The Interior Ministry later handed over the project to the Department of Rural Roads.
Mr Wirat said three bidders tendered for the project and Wisitthichai Partnerships quoted a price of 47.33 million baht and won the contract.
But the department lowered the starting price to 47.28 billion baht, which indicated the process was not transparent, Mr Wirat said.
He said the roads in question were not flooded so no repair work was needed.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday said the government had set up committees to investigate alleged irregularities related to the rice pledging scheme and other projects.
Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said yesterday the party will petition the Senate speaker to impeach six Democrat MPs for failing to keep in line with agreed topics.
The opposition sought to censure the government for alleged irregularities in key policies but attempted during the debate to grill the targeted ministers for unusual wealth, he said.
The six MPs are Nakorn Machim and Warong Dejkitwikrom from Phitsanulok, Sathit Pitutecha from Rayong, Ratchada Thanadirek and Wilas Chantarapitak from Bangkok and Nipit Intarasombat from Phatthalung.--Courtesy of Bangkok Post