Anti-graft agency to investigate telecoms regulatory body over 3G auction

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BANGKOK, Oct 25 – Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) on Thursday resolved to accept complaints concerning alleged price collusion behind the Oct 16 3G licence auction for investigation.

The National Telecommunications Broadcasting Commission (NBTC) auctioned off nine 15-year licences for 41.6 billion baht, only 1.125 billion baht, or 2.78 percent, above the reserve price. The auction winners were the major three telecoms players: AIS, DTAC and TrueMove.

Klanarong Chantik, the NACC commissioner, told a news conference after the NACC meeting that the agency agreed to accept the complaints filed separately by Supa Piyajitti, deputy finance permanent secretary and the chair of the e-auction committee, Suriyasai Katasila, a coordinator of the Green Politics group, and Phetchburi Senator Sumol Sutawiriyawat, president of the Senate Committee on Education, Corruption Investigation and Good Governance.

Mr Klanarong said all the complainants cited similar grounds on two key issues of their complaints –the auction was allowed to proceed without fair bidding prices being offered and the committee’s behaviours which acted in a hasty manner to endorse the auction results.

The graft-busting agency resolved that the complaints have sufficient grounds under the 1999 State Bidding Act, which allows the NACC to launch an investigation on both state officials and individuals. If any individual is found guilty, the case could be forwarded to law enforcement officials to take legal action, the NACC commissioner said.

The National Telecommunications Broadcasting Commission (NBTC) insisted the 3G bid was held lawfully and transparency. It earlier submitted documents about the auction to the NACC for consideration. Mr Klanarong said the anti-graft agency agreed to set up a panel to look into any irregularities.