Monday, October 26, 2020

PWO board 'in the dark' about Bt112-billion surgical gloves deal

Sep 19. 2020
Wichai Phochanakit
Wichai Phochanakit
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By THE NATION

Department of Internal Trade chief Wichai Phochanakit, as a member of Public Warehouse Organisation (PWO) board, has said that the board had no knowledge of a contract to buy surgical gloves at a total cost of Bt112.5 billion signed by Pol Colonel Roongroj Phuthiyawat.

Wichai, who is the department's director-general, said that Roongroj, the director of the PWO's central administrative office, had never submitted the proposal for the board's approval.

The contract to buy 500 million packs of nitro gloves at a total cost of Bt112.5 billion was a free on board deal, which would be ordered periodically for two years. It also stated that the buyer had to pay a Bt2-billion advance to the seller within three days of the signing and the rest would be paid after the products were delivered.

“The PWO has resolved to annul the contract since Roongroj was only acting director of PWO’s central administrative office when the contract was signed and hence he had no authority to approve the disbursement of budget exceeding Bt25 million,” said Wichai. “Any disbursement of more than Bt50 million must be proposed to the PWO board for approval. The current contract violates the PWO’s regulations.”

On September 14, Roongroj was transferred on Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s order to the Office of Prime Minister after facing an embezzlement allegation.

Wichai added that the board had ordered the PWO to file a complaint with the Department of Special Investigation against Roongroj for abuse of authority, and also file a case with the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) to seize the Bt2-billion advance that the PWO had transferred to the manufacturer of surgical gloves. They also asked AMLO to investigate the money trail of the manufacturer for possible money laundering.

Kriangsak Prateepvisut, who was appointed the new director of PWO on September 10, said that the PWO would pursue legal actions against any individuals who are involved in this possible corruption.

Meanwhile, Roongroj said that he was ready to clarify details to investigation officers and insisted that the contract he had signed was legal and there was no corruption. “I only wished to increase PWO’s income by reselling the gloves to foreign buyers, which will generate billions in profit to PWO to make up for over Bt11.7 billion loss that it has suffered for many years,” he said.

Related Story: PWO's Bt112-bn glove deal being probed for alleged corruption

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