Thai budget watchdog wants $1.57b NBTC funds frozen

Metaratings
17 Jun 2014
00:00
Article

Thailand’s budget watchdog has asked the ruling junta for wide-ranging reforms to the telecom regulator - including seizure of its broadcasting auction money - citing irresponsible use of funds and legal contradictions in the frequency allocation act.

Acting comptroller-general Prapee Ungkinan has written to general Prayuth Chanocha, head of the national council for peace and order asking for him to reconsider the Frequency Allocation Act and to order that $1.57 billion (50,862 billion Baht) of broadcasting spectrum auction money be handed over to the ministry of finance so that any use would fall under normal budgetary process.

Reconsidering the NTBC Act is simply a polite way of asking the junta to disband the telecoms and broadcasting regulator in favour of a new one that is under more direct control of the executive.

This comes just days after just under half a billion baht of USO funds was used by the NBTC to compensate world-cup rights holder RS so that all the football matches could be broadcast free-to-air.

The NBTC had tried to issue a must-carry notification to force RS to allow rebroadcast of the matches, but RS fought back successfully through three courts. The NBTC, under a request from the junta, then simply exappropriated the football rights and paid RS less than half of what they wanted in compensation from the universal service obligation fund.

The move was ostensibly part of the junta’s return-of-happiness program aimed at promoting peace and reconciliation.

The comptroller-general’s office cites that the NBTC has too much freedom in using public money that is not subject to budetary scrutiny. It also points out an inconsistency that telecommunications money has to be returned to the exchequer while broadcasting money can be held by the NBTC.

It also found fault with the selection process of the NBTC, namely that it was clear that NBTC conmissioners were immature as a mimum age requirement was just 35.

This point was clearly aimed at preventing a recurrence of any possibility of selecting someone young, ideological and outspoken like commissioner Supinya Klangnarong who has almost single-handedly held the NBTC to account on numerous occasions through her massive social media following.

The comptroller-general’s office also said the selection process was not transparent enough and a list of other greviances in the letter that was leaked to the press.

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