Despite transparency concerns, CAT approves fiber-optic plan

07 Jul 2008

(Bangkok Post via NewsEdge) The board of CAT Telecom has awarded a 2.15-billion-baht ($64.2 million) fibre-optic network project to Marubeni (Thailand) despite questions raised by Thailand's Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) over the project's transparency.

State auditors have objected five times to the project, officially known as the Automation Switched Optical Network (ASON).

The network would link all parts of the country with the capital via optical-fibre lines covering 9,000 kilometres.

Jitkasem Ngamnil, a director of the state telecom enterprise, said the board held a special meeting to consider the project and after six hours of wide-ranging debate, it agreed to hire Marubeni.

He insisted that the board had considered the project in detail because ASON had a long history of study by past boards, and also had received objections many times from the OAG.

But after very cautious consideration, the board went ahead with the approval, he said.

All questions that had been raised by the OAG could be clarified by the board, he added.

A source familiar with the project said that earlier in May the board had scrapped the bid after Maruben's technical proposals did not meet CAT's terms of reference.

He said Marubeni proposed using ZTE brand equipment from China, but later shifted to another brand, Ciena, during the required testing procedure.

The company also did not show any documents to certify that ZTE and Ciena were the same products, and that it also was not a distribution agent for the Ciena brand.

The source said that Marubeni was later disqualified in the first round and had no right to submit a new proposal.

But due to political interference, the source claimed, the CAT board reversed its stance and later selected Marubeni again.

© 2008 Bangkok Post

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