PM orders review of costly microphone purchase
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said he has ordered a review of the procurement of an expensive audio-microphone system for Government House, amid widespread criticism the equipment is highly overpriced and unnecessarily sophisticated.
The microphone project is being reviewed and sources said the equipment was moved out from meeting rooms at Government House on Monday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Speaking after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Gen Prayuth said he had ordered a halt to the procurement, pending an investigation into whether the quoted price of the microphones was reasonable and whether such high-quality equipment was really needed.
"In fact, we need good electronic equipment for remote conferencing so that we can see everyone clearly while giving orders. We came up with this idea because we are preparing for the launch of the Asean Economic Community," Gen Prayuth said.
He said that as far as he knew the microphones had only just been imported and the median price had not been clearly set. The procurement was still at the stage of bargaining and evaluating the cost-effectiveness of the equipment.
Gen Prayuth was responding when asked if the price of the Bosch microphones was actually 140,000 baht apiece.
The prime minister declined to say who should be held responsible in this matter, saying full information on the procurement process was not yet available.
He said the redecorated cabinet room could not be used for today's meeting because the fresh paint was still emitting a strong smell.
If the meeting room were to be used next week, the old microphones would still be in place. Whether new ones were required was a matter for further discussion, he said.
"Don't rush to blame anyone. We need to look into the intentions of those involved to see why and how the controvery arose. Let's be calm," he said.
The prime minister said it would take some time to investigate those involved.
"Even the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has to follow legal procedures and the degree of punishment - be it probation, jail, detention, dismissal from government service or a pay cut - will be based on a person's intentions."
Sources said on Monday afternoon the Public Works and Town and Country Planning Department, which is responsible for the procurement project, sent employees from companies contracted to install and supply the equipment to remove all of the microphones in question from all of the meeting rooms at Government House.
The procurement of the high-tech microphones and other audio-visual systems is part of renovation of Government House, costed at 67 million baht in total.
The controversy emerged when the expensive microphones became the talk of the town on social media. Each microphone, Bosch model DCNM-MMD, was originally priced at 145,000 baht, and over 190 sets worth more than 27 million baht were to be bought and installed at three meeting rooms in Government House.