Dems in hot seat in corruption claim

The secretary to Public Health Minister Pradit Sintawanarong on Thursday asked the Department of Special Investigation to launch probes into alleged corruption in a vaccine plant construction project worth 1.4 billion baht initiated during the Democrat-led government.

Kamol Bandaipetch submitted a letter of request to DSI chief Tarit Pengdith demanding an investigation into the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation's (GPO) vaccine production plant in Saraburi’s Kaeng Khoi district. 

Mr Tarit said he had assigned Thanin Prempree, director of the DSI's corruption prevention and suppression centre, to take charge of the investigation, saying the case was important because it directly involved the health of the general public.    

An initial examination found the plant’s construction contract was signed in 2009 with a total budget of 1.4 billion baht, which was divided into construction costs (430 million baht) and machinery procurement expenses (560 million baht), Mr Thanin said. 

The project was not carried out because of problems and irregularities in the construction management plan. For example, there was no need to hire four design and building contractors because all facilities on the premises tended to require a similar design and layout approach and an individual contractor should have sufficed. The construction of two separate buildings involved individual contractors even though they were to be built on the same area. Machinery had been procured even though only 40 percent of the work had been completed. 

Significantly, the contract stated that vaccines manufactured at the plant would be produced from dead disease microorganisms, but it was later changed to live attenuated (weakened) sort. The two manufacturing processes required completely different machinery and technology. 

Mr Thanin said investigators would check to identify what type of machinery had been purchased and whether such a major amendment to the contract was intended to benefit any private firms.      

Mr. Kamol also asked the DSI to probe alleged corruption in the GPO’s procurement of 48 tonnes of raw materials for paracetamol production in 2011. 

Mr Thanin said 10 of the 48 tonnes of the paracetamol raw material were found to be contaminated. However, the GPO still ordered another 100 tonnes from the supplier who delivered the contaminated materials, he added.

Related search: democrats, corruption, vaccine plant

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Writer: King-oua Laohong
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