Thai Transport Minister Saksayam denies owning firm that won THB1bn Transport Ministry projects
Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob vehemently denied on Wednesday that he owned a construction firm that won 1 billion baht worth of projects from his ministry in the past two years.
Saksayam, a main censure target on the first day of the no-confidence debate on Tuesday, was responding to allegations by Move Forward party-list MP Pakornwut Udompipatskul and Prachachart Party secretary-general and list MP Tawee Sodsong.
The two alleged Saksayam used a nominee to hold 99 per cent of shares in Buri Charoen Construction and the nominee was none other than his employee.
But Saksayam insisted the company was owned by his friend, Supawat Kasemsut.
He said Supawat transferred the money to him on three different occasions – first 35 million baht, then another 35 million and subsequently 49 million for the shares worth 119.5 million baht.
Saksayam said the sale of shares had no documentary record because Business Development Department rules exempted the submission of such documents.
“The company was sold on March 28, 2019, and it has nothing to do with me now,” Saksayam insisted.
The minister said he did not report the proceeds from the sale of the company to the National Anti-Corruption Commission because the sale took place before he became transport minister on May 5, 2019.
The opposition also alleged that Buri Charoen Construction bagged a lot of Transport Ministry projects because of “bidding collusion”, but Saksayam dismissed the allegations.
He said it was impossible for any rigging to take place at the Transport Ministry because his ministry used an e-bidding system to prevent collusion and the ministry would severely punish any wrongdoers.
Saksayam also dismissed allegations that the Transport Ministry shelled out an unusually high amount of the construction budget to Buri Ram.
He said the ministry’s projects were proposed by the Highways Department and the Rural Roads Department, and they were screened by several levels of officials, including the permanent secretary.
During the past ten years, Buri Ram has received a lower budget under the Transport Ministry compared to allocations to other provinces such as Ayuthaya, Nakhon Pathom and Nakhon Ratchasima, Saksayam said.
He explained that Buri Ram would receive a high portion of the budget in fiscal 2023 because it had been given a lower portion of money for development in previous years.
Saksayam said some construction projects in the 2023 fiscal year were continued from earlier ones that started before he became the transport minister.
He added that the Highways Department and the Rural Roads Department complied with the law and bidding regulations and there were up to 35 construction contractors that won projects from the two departments, not just Buri Charoen Construction.
Responding to the allegation that his father, Chai Chidchob, encroached on a plot of land owned by the State Railway of Thailand (SRT), Saksayam admitted that his father did live on a disputed plot of land on Buri Ram’s Kradong Mountain.
But, Saksayam said, his father had filed a lawsuit with the Central Administrative Court against the SRT and the Land Department to claim ownership and the court had accepted the case for review.
The minister said his father lived on a different plot and not the one involved in a Supreme Court case that the SRT had won after an ownership dispute, so the opposition has cited inaccurate information, he said.
Saksayam also denied that development projects under the Motorway-Rail Map masterplan would overlap with existing transport projects.
He denied that the masterplan had already commissioned a huge budget of 5.77 trillion baht. He said the plan was aimed at solving transport problems by systematically linking all major routes around the country and investments would be carried out gradually.
In conclusion, Saksayam said the opposition spent more than four hours attacking him but failed to provide correct and comprehensive information to the public.