Yingluck rice scheme ‘did hurt nation’

The auditor-general has insisted that the loss-ridden rice-pledging programme initiated by then-prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra caused damage to the country. (Bangkok Post photo)

The auditor-general has insisted that the Yingluck Shinawatra government’s loss-ridden rice-pledging programme caused damage to the country.

Auditor-General Prajuck Boonyoung made the statement after Pheu Thai legal adviser Ruangkrai Leekitwattana said the national financial statement prepared by the Comptroller General’s Department (CGD) did not report any losses incurred by the rice-pledging scheme.

The financial report for Sept 30, 2014 and 2015 was examined and verified by the Office of the Auditor-General.

This was in contrast to the ruling on the rice-pledging case by the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions on Sept 27 last year, which mentioned more than 536.90 billion baht in losses, Mr Ruangkrai said.

If the massive losses did occur, they should have been detailed in the report, he said.

Yingluck made her escape last August, shortly before the court was scheduled to hand down a ruling in the rice-pledging case, in which she was indicted for negligence of duty.

The court said Yingluck failed to stop the delivery of rice under the deals, which fed corruption. This was tantamount to a “dishonest dereliction of duty” in violation of the Criminal Code and the anti-corruption law, it said.

Mr Ruangkrai said that the cabinet and the National Legislative Assembly acknowledged the reports on May 22 and Aug 9 respectively.

Mr Prajuck said that the issue was rather “technical”, saying the national financial statements showed consolidated information provided by state agencies that requested disbursements of funds and returned budgets to state coffers.

The statement is only updated with information associated with state assets and liabilities, given by agencies which are responsible for managing them on the government’s behalf. The statement did not list and disclose information on each specific project, Mr Prajuck said.

Regarding the rice-pledging scheme, he added that the cabinet approved the use of revolving funds from two sources on June 10, 2013 — from the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) and loans from financial institutions sought and guaranteed by the Finance Ministry.

The Finance Ministry was responsible for the burden of repaying the principal and interest owed to financial institutions, as well as other costs and losses incurred by the rice scheme, Mr Prajuck said.

He added that the BAAC prepared a public service account and handled it as an out-of-budget obligation. The information was shown as part of budget spending by the BAAC and other agencies.

Mr Prajuck said the information on the rice-pledging scheme was under the authority of a subcommittee set up to assess the annual accounts of the scheme.

The Finance Ministry also disclosed information on loans borrowed from financial institutions at the footnote of the financial report, Mr Prajuck said.

The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions found Yingluck guilty for failing to stop the corruption-plagued sale of rice from her rice-pledging scheme, and sentenced her to a five-year jail term in absentia.

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