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NLA passes revised version of new organic law governing Auditor General

Oct 20. 2017
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By The Nation

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National Legislative Assembly (NLA) yesterday passed the organic law governing the Office of Auditor General (OAG) but revised a controversial clause that would have given authority to the office to probe anti-corruption officials.

The NLA voted 170 to zero, with four abstentions, to endorse the bill and forward it to other agencies to review as to its constitutionality before final submission to the Cabinet.

A proposal to grant authority to the Auditor General to conduct an initial probe against officials of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) was the major point of concern in the deliberation. The legislators spent more than two hours arguing on this point alone.

The minority legislators viewed the NACC should be subject to potential review as a form of checks and balances to ensure transparency. Others argued that it would violate the agency’s independence and could affect the confidentiality of the case files it was handling.

In addition, NACC officials were held in check by The Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases. More than 25 cases involving NACC officials have been heard in the Court, the legislators argued.

The NACC had even fired a senior official, they said. Protecting corrupt officials could lead to their conviction for misconduct, and as an anti-graft official, an NACC official found guilty would receive twice as much punishment.

As well, complaints against officials could be lodged with the Ombudsman, opponents of granting additional oversight by the OAG argued.

After much debate, legislators agreed to revise the clauses to limit the Auditor General’s role to “notifying” the NACC if any irregularities involving anti-corruption officials were discovered during their audit work.

The revised clauses would not still allow the OAG to conduct an initial investigation, but it must be in line with the NACC’s rules and not affect the officials’ work.

If the agency’s anti-graft work is affected, officials could petition to stop the probe and pass it on to the NACC.

The organic bill as passed also allows the OAG’s committee to take office before the law came into effect in order to complete their terms. Auditor General Pisit Leelavachirophas, however, would be exempted, as the bill does not allow the same person to take the top position twice.

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