BANGKOK, Feb 4 – Thailand’s Office of the Auditor General (OAG) is proposing that the government suspend the rice pledging scheme which has been plagued with corruption and plunged the country into heavy financial loss.
It suggested the government find other measures to help farmers, including support of rice cultivation materials and assistance directly to low-income farmers.
Ms Prapee Ankinandana, OAG deputy governor, sent a letter to caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, dated Jan 30, citing risks and weaknesses in every stage of the rice scheme, starting from farmer registration to rice released from the state stockpiles.
Officials of the Public Warehouse Organisation (PWO) and the Marketing Organisation for Farmers (MOF) could not assist farmers during the pledging procedure, nor did they have knowledge or experience on stocking rice, resulting in worsening quality, she said.
Ms Prapee said there was no evidence to substantiate claims of government-to-government agreements on rice purchases by China.
The statement said figures of rice in PWO and MOF stocks were incomplete and frequently changed, including an increase of rice in stock to 2.98 million tonnes on June 27, 2013 which could not be confirmed.
The government reported a Bt332 billion loss from rice purchase in the 2011/2012 crop, as of May 31 – a figure much higher than that of the closing account of the sub-committee which reported a Bt220 billion loss as of Dec 31, 2013.
Ms Prapee said the government had to bear heavy financial burden from 13 million tonnes of rice in its stockpile, as of May 31, from the 2011 to 2013 crops.
The OAG also submitted a separate letter to caretaker Deputy Prime Minister/Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong, expressing the OAG’s concern over the Finance Ministry’s attempt to borrow from different state sources and agencies for overdue payments to farmers from the rice pledging scheme.
It also referred to the Cabinet’s decision on Jan 27 to adjust public debt ceiling to Bt1.321 trillion to Bt1.316 trillion, after the caretaker government reduced the loan ceiling for the rice scheme from Bt270 billion to Bt130 billion to enable the Finance Ministry to act as a guarantor for loans to pay farmers.
The OAG warned the Finance Ministry that it had to abide by the law and avoid violating the Constitution, or the person who gave approval must be held responsible.