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Governor Sukhumbhand risks suspension in corruption case

Jul 21. 2016
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By Thanatpong Kongsai
The Nation

BANGKOK GOVERNOR MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra risks suspension while his corruption case is reviewed by the Centre for National Anti-Corruption (CNAC).
“Our probe has found grounds of corruption in the city administration’s Bt39.5-million decorative-light project. So, we have forwarded the case to the CNAC for further action,” Auditor-General Pisit Leelavachiropas said yesterday.
He said it was up to the CNAC to decide whether to take further action.
The corruption allegation relates to Sukhumbhand’s Bangkok Light of Happiness initiative, which involved the setting up of lighting during the New Year festival. The project is mired in many alleged irregularities. 
Established in late 2014, the CNAC is a national-level organisation intended to fight graft. Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has transferred hundreds of officials, including locally elected ones, in response to CNAC reports. 
Last month, Prayut exercised his power under Article 44 of the interim constitution to transfer 23 policemen and officials over corruption complaints. 
Although Prayut has said he would not employ Article 44 in the Sukhumbhand case prior to the conclusion of the investigation, a petition from the CNAC may change that. 
Sukhumbhand’s spokesman Wasant Meewong said the fact-finding process was far from over. 
“But comments from the auditor-general have already affected the morale of working people,” he said. 
Meanwhile, Sukhumbhand attended yesterday an important session of the Bangkok Metropolitan Council where the city administration sought a budget for the new fiscal year starting October 1. 
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is seeking a budget of Bt76.5 billion for the next fiscal year.
Sukhumbhand yesterday presented the budget proposal to the Bangkok Metropolitan Council. “It’s a balanced budget and matches the income the city administration will get,” he told the council yesterday. 
The governor said the funds would be used in line with his policies of increasing happiness, quality of life, easy access to healthcare services, general safety and a more efficient flood-prevention system. 
“We hope to make Bangkok a pleasant place to live in on a sustainable basis,” he said. 
The proposal is expected to sail through the first reading today. 
BMA deputy permanent secretary Jakkapan Phiewngarm separately disclosed that the BMA would need Bt183 million to repair the 176 fire vehicles that Austrian supplier Steyr-Daimler-Puch Spezialfahrzeug delivered in 2006. The vehicles have never been used due to a corruption scandal. 
“The Bangkok Fire and Rescue Department is in the process of seeking the money from the BMA’s Budget Department,” he said. 
The BMA has decided to use the fire vehicles after a Switzerland-based arbitrator ordered Steyr-Daimler-Puch Spezialfahrzeug to pay about Bt800 million to BMA for repairs last year. 
Over and above the repair budget, the BMA will also have to pay a large sum for the storage of the vehicles. 
Namyong Terminal Public Co Ltd, for example, wants Bt809 million in rental fees for parking the vehicles since 2006.
“We will negotiate with the firm on July 25,” he said.

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