Room 501 debut for Prayut
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will use Room 501 at Government House to hold a meeting with his cabinet members for the first time on Tuesday since the controversial microphone project was suspended.
Prime Minister's Office Minister ML Panadda Diskul shows a Bosch microphone at Room 501 of Government House to the press on Sept 4, 2014. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Gen Wilas Aroonsri, the prime minister's secretary-general, made final checks on the room at Banchakarn 1 Building in the Government House compound on Monday to make sure the cabinet meeting on Tuesday would go smoothly.
The Public Works and Town and Country Planning Department, which is responsible for the audio-visual system, has handed over the room to the Prime Minister's Office.
Room 501 and two other rooms were supposed to be equipped with state-of-the-art sound systems, including Bosch microphones, when they underwent a 600 million baht renovation.
The project would have been completed in time for Gen Prayut to meet his cabinet ministers for their first meeting on Sept 9.
The system was already installed in Room 501 and two more rooms would have followed soon.
Officials boasted that the sound system was in the same league as the White House's. A press tour led by Prime Minister's Office Minister Panadda Disku was held Sept 4 to show off the room and the system.
Their jubilation turned into embarrassment after public outcry erupted over the price of the microphones, with many complaining they were too over-priced. The equipment was priced at 99,000 baht each, but the price tag turned to be 145,000 baht when the department procured them.
ML Panadda denied claims that the purchase was too expensive and claimed the prices quoted were reasonable. Gen Prayut's staff decided to halt the plan to use the Room 501 sound system after the controversy.
He told the National Legislative Assembly on Sept 12 that three panels were set up to investigate whether the project was overpriced and went further on Sept 16 by ordering the system be removed from the room in a bid to end the issue. The groups involved where were a budget-oversight panel, the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Auditor General's Office.
The probe has not been concluded and Gen Prayut urged the public not to rush to the conclusion that the project was marred by corruption.
Deputy government spokesman Maj Gen Sansern Kaewkumnerd said on Monday that the prime minister had intended to use the room for the meeting on Tuesday after being informed that the room was ready now.
Room 501 is the main meeting room for the cabinet meetings of previous governments.