EARTH Thailand

Moves to cut Klong Dan payout

The Nation 25 November 2014 | WASU VIPOOSANAPAT

Pollution Control Dept pushes to bring down compensation amount, which will rise by bt180m if not paid in 90 days

THE POLLUTION Control Department (PCD) is in negotiations with a joint-venture company that won a court battle for more than Bt9 billion in compensation over the now-cancelled, graft-plagued Klong Dan wastewater-treatment plant. 

PCD chiefs are hoping to get the amount reduced. 

As of press time, PCD representatives were at the negotiation table with NVPSKG – a six-firm joint venture that had won the contract to construct the Klong Dan plant.

Last Friday, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that the department should compensate the joint venture based on the ruling of an arbitration committee. 

The PCD tried but failed to rebut the claim for compensation on grounds that it entered into a contract with NVPSKG believing that Northwest Water International was party to the contract. 

But Northwest Water International withdrew from the joint venture – a move that PCD insisted made NVPSKG unqualified as a bidder.

In 2004, PCD also lodged complaints against several firms that were part of the joint venture, accusing them of fraud.  

Signs of corruption

In 2009, several government officials and politicians, including former deputy interior minister Vatana Asavahame, were |found guilty of corruption related to the Klong Dan project. 

The Supreme Administrative Court, meanwhile, ruled that the NVPSKG had completed part of the construction required for the Klong Dan project and that PCD was required to pay for work that has been done. 

“This is a big lesson,” PCD director general Wichien Jungrung-ruang lamented yesterday. 

The PCD is required to pay the compensation within 90 days of the ruling or pay Bt180 million extra in interest. 

Wichien said his department would consult the Office of the Attorney General and relevant agencies about the payment of the compensation. 

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Dapong Ratanasuwan, meanwhile, said he would inform the Cabinet about the ruling and see if the money to settle the matter can be withdrawn from the central budget. 

He also said he would set up a panel to investigate officials who were involved in the controversial project. 

Wichien said the project had caused huge damage to the government as the total amount, including compensation, was up to about Bt33 billion.

Massive damage

“This is the biggest financial damage from a single project in the government’s history,” he said. 

The infamous case began in 1997 when PCD hired NVPSKG Joint Venture to design and build the Klong Dan wastewater facility worth Bt23 billion.

Meanwhile, director of Ecological Alert and Recovery-Thailand (Earth), Penchom Sae-tang, said corrupt politicians involved in the project should be made to cover the compensation. 

“The government should not waste citizen’s taxes, but seize this money from the corrupt people who were involved instead,” she said.