[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

EDITORIAL: Graft-fighters must be

Subject: EDITORIAL: Graft-fighters   must be given big sticks 

Editorial & Opinion 

      EDITORIAL: Graft-fighters
      must be given big sticks

      The Cabinet will be asked today by the
      Finance Ministry to approve the formation
      of an independent budget-audit unit that will
      work full-time in all ministries to check on
      abuses and corruptions that are
      widespread in the public administration
      system. The ministers should seize this
      opportunity to display their seriousness in
      tackling graft by approving the proposal. 

      Such an audit unit would nevertheless be a
      tip of the iceberg in the reform of the
      bureaucracy, though it is a good start. Not
      only it is long overdue, but its assessment
      of each ministry's budgetary system should
      be publicised for public scrutiny, and a
      system of carrots and sticks should be
      introduced to give more teeth to the
      proposed unit. 

      Some ministers and probably most senior
      civil servants will likely greet the proposal
      with reservation. They may argue that there
      already exists in each ministry an internal
      audit unit. They should be reminded that the
      existing system is a big joke since such
      units are accountable to the ministerial
      permanent secretary and the minister, both
      of whom have good reasons to hide the
      abuses rather than have them discovered. 

      Corruption and abuse are waiting to be
      revealed everywhere. A recent study by a
      group of Chulalongkorn University
      economists found that corruption was
      rampant in Thai public administration. The
      Finance Ministry collects taxes from the
      people only to find the money used
      inefficiently or goes into the pockets of
      officials, politicians and companies working
      in concert. 

      The Finance Ministry proposal involves
      forming the new independent audit units
      with representatives from the Counter
      Corruption Commission, the
      Auditor-General's Office, the Budget
      Bureau, the ministry itself and other experts.
      But for fear that the proposal will be
      rejected, the Finance Ministry is proposing
      that the unit report to the permanent
      secretary of each ministry. Yet each
      member of the unit will also be reporting
      back to the agencies they come from to
      further tighten accountability. 

      And in the not-too-distant future the new
      Constitution has stipulated that the CCC
      and Auditor-General must be answerable
      not to the government but to Parliament. 

      To further ensure the success of the
      scheme, the Finance Ministry might
      consider giving ''carrots and sticks'' to the
      independent audit units. It would be a good
      idea to get them to publish their results. An
      even better idea would be, if possible, to
      give the unit members better salaries or
      rewards. It is almost certain that corrupt civil
      servants will try to buy them off or threaten
      them if abuses are discovered. 

      A system of rewards should also be set up
      fro agencies or ministries that can prove on
      the basis of the audit unit's assessment that
      they have helped the state to save money
      or can deliver services efficiently at low cost
      per unit or within a short time. This system
      is in place in Britain under the Citizen's
      Charter scheme. 

      In short, the formation of the independent
      audit units should be looked upon as a
      mechanism to help with an overall reform of
      the bureaucracy, on which the Chuan
      government has not moved fast or seriously
      enough. It is taking the government a long
      time to realise that many of the country's ills
      have to do with shortcomings and
      deep-rooted problems in the public
      administration system. The government
      must also find a greater political will to act,
      and bureaucratic reform and the fight
      against corruption must be at the top of the
      national agenda. 

      The Nation