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in-focus

Anti-graft chief sees the urgent need for reform


WITH his knowledge, skills and experience directing an anti-graft agency for nine years, Panthep Klanarongran has all it takes to chair the newly appointed anti-graft reform committee under the new National Reform Steering Assembly.

Corruption is still endemic despite all efforts to suppress it. The country needed major reform of anti-graft work but this could be done, he said, if it was seriously addressed in a supreme law.
“Why? Can we really expect a government to pursue what would put itself under the microscope?” he said.
“That’s the reason why we need to address this in the new constitution, so that the work will be continued without any disruption.”
The most problematic sector is the political arena. The moral and ethical standards of the people are also a major concern. The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), which he chairs, has handled 37,570 corruption cases over the past nine years. But it has managed to complete investigations into only 26,530 cases, leaving another 11,000 cases under investigation. Wrongdoers range from officials in local organisations to political office holders.
As a principal anti-graft agency, the NACC has been tackling the problem hard but it still suffers a shortage of resources – personnel, as well as funding. In the previous charter drafting round, the NACC proposed maintaining its authority to investigate suspects up to political-office holders, similar to the level prescribed in the 2007 Constitution. However, the new team of charter drafters views this differently and wants to remove and transfer some of its responsibilities to the other anti-graft agency, the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission. 
The NACC disagrees with this and insists on its old powers. It has asked the new Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC) to note in principle that anti-corruption must be given importance, but the details on how to tackle it can be left to organic laws.
Anti-corruption work must be in line with international practices, so laws must be amended. All related work and laws must be revamped in order to be in harmony and to strengthen one another. “I insist that we didn’t ask for more. We just asked for what we already had,” he said.
While still waiting for the CDC to deal with the request, as the new chairman of the reform committee, Panthep said he would push for reform of graft-fighting through the work of the NRSA following the authority given.
The NRSA has reorganised its agenda based on the now defunct National Reform Council’s 37 issues. It has come up with 11 major reform priorities, plus one special focus on fighting corruption. He chairs the committee for that matter.
As a chair of the committee, Panthep has set his own personal goals for anti-corruption reform. 
Fighting corruption in the political arena is the first and foremost challenge. Second is the bureaucratic system. Third is how local organisations operate. Loopholes for corruption at that level need to be looked at afterwards. Last but not least, the role of the public was seen as key to success and no less than that of the supreme law.

Published : December 06, 2015

By : PIYAPORN WONGRUANG THE NATION