Thaksin’s pet project scrutinised

Thaksin's pet project scrutinised - Bangkok Post, April 16, 2007
...Executives of its units, such as the Thailand Knowledge Park (TK Park) and Thailand Creative and Design Centre (TCDC), were paid as much as 200,000-300,000 baht a month, he said.
...Since it was set up in 2004, budgets of more than five billion baht had been allocated to the organisation, which had spent nearly three billion baht. Half of that went into executive salaries, said the source...


[2015 note: Like many Thai newspaper articles from the early days of the Thai internet, this article is no longer online. Below is the complete text of the original article.]

Thaksin's pet project scrutinised

Audit: Output doesn't justify hefty budget

AMPA SANTIMATANEDOL

The Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) is looking into lavish spending by the Office of Knowledge Management and Development (OKMD), a brainchild of the ousted Thaksin Shinawatra administration to turn the country into a knowledge-based society.

OAG's deputy chief Pisit Leelavachiropas said an initial inquiry found the output of the public organisation under the PM's Office did not justify its hefty bills.

Executives of its units, such as the Thailand Knowledge Park (TK Park) and Thailand Creative and Design Centre (TCDC), were paid as much as 200,000-300,000 baht a month, he said.

The Thaksin government seemed to have set up the office to serve political ends rather than the national interest, Mr Pisit said.

The OAG was conducting a routine investigation into the OKMD in terms of its value for money and transparency, when it stumbled on the high expenditure.

An OAG source said auditors had been examining the OKMD's management and investment worthiness for almost three months.

Their findings would be presented after the Songkran break.

Since it was set up in 2004, budgets of more than five billion baht had been allocated to the organisation, which had spent nearly three billion baht. Half of that went into executive salaries, said the source.

The OKMD's budget for this year was cut from the requested 1.5 billion baht to one billion baht.

The OKMD has seven units according to its website www.okmd.or.th. They are TCDC, at the Emporium shopping mall, TK Park at CentralWorld in Bangkok and in Yala, and the National Discovery Museum Institute.

TCDC focuses on exhibitions to inspire people to come up with new ideas.

TK park was to serve Mr Thaksin's dream of a modern library in the country on a par with libraries in Singapore.

The Discovery project is to create museums similar to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.

Other projects are the Thailand Centre of Excellence for Life Sciences, the Centre for the Promotion of National Strength on Moral Ethics and Values, the National Centre for the Gifted and Talented, and the National Institute for Brain-Based Learning.

OKMD was run by Pansak Vinyaratn, a chief adviser to then prime minister Thaksin when it was created in 2004. He resigned in January and also lost his job as TCDC chairman in the same month after six out of the nine TCDC commissioners tendered their resignations, disabling the commission.

Former OKMD deputy director Nirand Pitakwatchara cited a management conflict for his recent decision to leave the position he took up only in February.

''Its a top-down decision making process, which is similar to the public sector, and has slowed down the work,'' he said.

''The OKMD is business-oriented and tailored its activities to city folks.''

He had accepted the job expecting the OKMD to be knowledge-based, but he found it focused on image-creating. Its activities also promoted capitalism, competition and the city lifestyle.

The board was made up of Mr Thaksin's close aides, including Shin Corp CEO and executive chairman Boonklee Plangsiri and Prommin Lertsuridej, a secretary-general to Mr Thaksin when it launched.

The source said Mr Pansak received a big pay cheque as TCDC chairman, as much as 300,000 baht a month _ much more than the prime minister's own salary.
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