By THE NATION
A NEW rule requiring more holders of important public positions to declare their assets to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has triggered such serious concerns that Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has decided to intervene.
The premier’s intervention occurred even before the new rule, promulgated in the Royal Gazette on November 1, takes effect on December 2.
“I have now assigned Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, though unofficially, to explore solutions with the NACC,” Prayut said yesterday.
He was speaking after several universities complained that the new rule threatened to cause a power vacuum in their administration, as several council members were ready to quit.
“Nearly half of the council members at my place have tendered their resignations,” president of Rajamangala University of Technology Isan, Viroj Limkaisang, complained. “This will disrupt our management. Without a quorum, we won’t be able to make decisions on several issues. And it will take time to fill positions at the council.”
Under the new rule, the scope of persons required to declare their assets/liabilities to the NACC will extend far beyond political-office holders like Cabinet members, senators, MPs, local administrative bodies’ executives, Bangkok governor, the attorney-general and the president of Constitutional Court, Supreme Court and Supreme Administrative Court. Presidents of state universities and their council members, as well as top executives of public organisations and state funds, and the chiefs of Armed Forces including the police force, for example, will also have to file their asset declarations to the NACC.
So far, protests have been the loudest from the higher-educational sector.
Education Minister Teera-kiat Jareonset-tasin said his ministry would raise the concerns with the NACC because many university council members came from the private sector.
“They don’t want to file asset declarations. If the new rule is enforced, they will leave,” he said.
According to Teerakiat, his ministry cannot ignore the private sector because it is a key contributor to the country’s education.
Given that the Supreme Patriarch is the president of the Mahamakut Buddhist University, he will be required to file assets declarations to the NACC too.
Prayut, who also heads the National Council for Peace and Order and holds special power as its chief, expressed hope that authorities will find a solution before the new rule takes effect.
However, while the NACC has promised to listen to the opinions of all sides, its president Pol General Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit emphasised that the new rule was drawn up in line with the new charter.
“It’s for the sake of transparency,” he said.
He added that in fact all state officials must submit their assets/liabilities declarations to their supervisors, but the NACC had intended to require high-level officials to submit the declarations for the NACC to review.
“Members of university councils have the power to approve budgets used by universities and their units. So, their positions are in the same level as high-level executives of state organisations. They, therefore, should declare their assets,” Watcharapol said.
The Coordinating Centre for the Public Higher Education (CHES) has expressed support for the new rule.
“There is no need for the university council’s presidents and members to be worried about asset declarations if they have nothing to hide,” CHES president Weerachai Phutdhawong said.