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EC staff slam commissioners’ ‘exorbitant’ travel expenses

Apr 18. 2016
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By The Nation

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A GROUP of Election Commission (EC) officials yesterday sent a petition to Prime Minister Prayut General Chan-o-cha alleging that EC executives have wasted state funds.
The unsigned petition claimed that EC commissioners frequently took overpriced study trips under the EC’s Advance Political and Electoral Development (APED) programme, prolonging overseas stays and inviting several advisers. Some trips had cost between Bt2 million and Bt5 million, the petition said.
The group also expressed concerns that executives might delay decisions relating to the upcoming referendum, such as those regarding regulations and campaign bans, because of their busy travel schedules. A source familiar with the EC said that all five commissioners are generally present during decision-making meetings, although rules require only a three-fourths quorum. 
The petition cited examples of expensive trips, including one in which the EC reportedly spent Bt70,000 to send a student to South Korea, when a standard five- to seven-day trip should cost between Bt30,000 and Bt40,000 per student. 
The petition also said budgets allocated to other officials had been cut. 
“Please let them travel as they wish. But could you please give us a new team of commissioners?” the petition read. 
Top EC executives had speculated that the letter might have been written by staff affected by the EC’s dismissal of former secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong, a source said. 
Meanwhile, the commission’s chairman Supachai Somchaeron said the EC has set up an investigating committee to probe the issue. If the petition’s information is incorrect, the writers should be punished he said. The chairman also insisted that preparations for the referendum were proceeding on schedule and that trips did not interfere in the EC’s duties because some duties could be completed online.
Supachai also said the APED not the main EC offices that was responsible for organising the trips.
APED director Krit Auewong defended EC executives, saying that overseas trips are usually organised based on dates of elections scheduled in other countries. 
The trip to South Korea coincided with last week’s parliamentary elections there, Krit said, adding that EC commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn will visit Austria to observe its presidential election next Sunday and commissioner Boonsong Noisophon will observe parliamentary elections in Scotland on May 5. 
Supachai has also been invited by the US Democratic and Republican parties to observe the Pennsylvania primary election later this month, Krit said. 

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