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Thai Junta’s new parliament building now ‘billions’ over budget

National Legislative Assembly (NLA) president Pornpetch Witchitcholchai has ordered the Secretariat of the House of Representatives to explain why the cost of IT and public utility systems at the new parliament complex has surged from B3 billion to B8bn.

Mr Pornpetch, also chairman of the Parliamentary Officials Commission, May 17 insisted that the secretariat must provide credible reasons for the budget increase

The demand came after the secretariat asked for an B8bn budget for the procurement of IT and public utility systems, for the new complex on Kiakkai Rd.

The request drew objections from Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha who voiced suspicions over the high cost.

Mr Pornpetch also questioned the sharp budget increase from the B3bn proposed by the agency in 2013.

The secretariat initially defended its budget request, citing more advanced technology for vote-counting, participant-counting, microphone and security systems.

The NLA president said those who proposed the budget might want to acquire high-quality technology for the complex. However, in his view, the cost can be reduced by procuring good and practicable systems.

“Compare this to people who have an iPhone 7 but still want to buy an iPhone X, this brings up the question, whether it is really necessary. Proper answers must be given to the public because the prime minister’s opposition is reasonable,” he said.

“Besides, I also told the Bureau of the Budget to grant the budget to the project as the agency sees fit,” Mr Pornpetch said.

According to Mr Pornpetch, B15.3bn was initially set for the construction of the new parliament complex in 2013. Nevertheless, the cabinet at the time approved a maximum budget of only B12bn.

To cut costs, the secretariat then expunged B3.5bn in IT and public utility systems from the budget.

Asked why both budgets were separated from the total chunk, Mr Pornpetch said the question, should go to ex-cabinet members from 2013 as he was assigned to oversee the project around a year and a half after construction started.

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