Ministry probes for school bid graft

The Education Ministry is investigating potential corruption in a plan to construct multi-purpose field roofs for 11 schools in the Deep South provinces.

The Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) found irregularities when reviewing the 62-million-baht project budget to build dome-shaped roofs for schools in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.

The OAG found the plan's bid winners were all computer companies, not construction companies. Construction costs were also listed much higher than the market price.

According to the OAG, bidding collusion might have played a role in the procurement process as only a couple bidders were involved in the project. Some of their bids failed due to neglect to submit the required documents.

The OAG recently approached the Education Ministry about the irregularities detected.

Adviser to the Minister of Education Lt Gen Kosol Prathumchart says he was ordered by Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin to investigate the issue, after which he set up a special panel to investigate the case.

"We have received information from the OAG and found there were grounds to take legal action against wrongdoers," Lt Gen Kosol said.

He added that his team will not limit its investigation to the 11 schools in the deep South, but expand its scope to include schools that have had similar projects around Thailand.

The roof construction plan is part of a project under the Office of the Basic Education Commission to promote sports and recreation among students in the deep South.

Meanwhile, authorities have been urged to step up an investigation into a multi-million baht futsal pitch construction project in Nakhon Ratchasima also mired in corruption accusations.

In 2012, the Office of Basic Education Commission under Yingluck Shinawatara's cabinet allocated 689 million baht to build futsal pitches for 358 schools in 17 provinces.

Nakhon Ratchasima's Office of Elementary Education Zone 1 is now working with 16 schools in the Sung Noen district to file a petition to the court against a construction firm manager accused of corruption.

However, officials outside of the province assigned to work on the probe appear quiet, said Adisorn Naowanon, former chairman of the Teacher and Education Officials Panel.

An initial investigation into the plan implicated more than 100 schools and construction firms in price collusion, invoking unusually high costs and the use of poor construction materials.

In 2014, officials had a major breakthrough in the case when as the construction firms' money trails were tracked down. They planned to question up to 600 teachers over it.

However, little has been done to follow up, Mr Adisorn said.



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