NACC forms five panels to probe controversial ‘fancy’ lamp post project in Samut Prakan
Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has agreed to establish five panels to investigate the installation and maintenance of decorative lamp posts, in Racha Thewa sub-district, in Bang Phli district of Samut Prakan province since 2013, by the Racha Thewa Tambon Administration Organization (TAO).
According to NACC Deputy Secretary-General Niwatchai Kasemmongkol, the anti-graft watchdog has discovered the TAO’s budgetary spending, for fiscal years 2013, 2014 and 2018 through 2021, for the installation and maintenance of the lamp posts, was not in line with the Interior Ministry’s regulations pertaining to budgeting of local administration organizations.
It was also discovered, by the NACC, that the procurement process has favoured some companies and that some of the lamp posts are not up to the required standard.
Niwatchai said that each of the five investigative panels will concentrate on the Racha Thewa TAO’s spending in each fiscal year, adding that the activities of more than 20 individuals and entities, including former governors of Samut Prakan and ex-mayors of the Racha Thewa TAO, are being looked at.
The panels have 180 days to complete their investigations.
Installation of decorative, or “fancy” lamp posts has become a popular practice by TAOs in several provinces throughout Thailand. The decorative part of the lamp posts come in different styles and shapes, in accordance with the requirements of each TAO. For instance, the Racha Thewa lamp posts feature Kinnaree (half bird, half human) figurine. In Chiang Khong district of Chiang Rai, they feature the rare giant catfish of the Mekong River.
The Racha Thewa TAO, however, surpasses all other TAOs across the country for having spent about 669 million baht on the “fancy” lamp post project for the past seven years.
On June 22nd, as the lamp post controversy was still raging, the Racha Thewa TAO council approved the spending of an additional 68 million baht to install another 720 decorative lamp posts in 11 villages in the sub-district. Approval of the council’s resolution was later withheld by the mayor.
Each lamp post was estimated to cost about 94,000 baht, which was criticized as being overpriced.