The government will proceed with its digital wallet scheme despite a warning from the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), and it will set up a sub-committee to investigate any risk of corruption, says Deputy Finance Minister Julapun Amornvivat.
He said the digital wallet committee is expected to meet again on Feb 15 as planned by the prime minister, and the panel will discuss the NACC’s recommendations involving the 10,000-baht handout scheme if it receives the agency’s report by that time.
Mr Julapun said the government could clarify all the points of concern raised by the anti-graft agency, noting there could be some issues the NACC might not fully understand or have incomplete information about.
On Wednesday, Niwatchai Kasemmongkol, secretary-general of the NACC, revealed the results of a panel study into the scheme that indicated it may be prone to exploitation by corrupt actors.
According to Mr Niwatchai, the plan poses a risk as it could benefit certain parties, politicians or business groups. Graft could also occur during its implementation unless clear methods were mapped out to ensure all vulnerable groups benefit from it.
The deputy finance minister on Friday brushed off the NACC’s warning that the details of the scheme differed from what was promised during the Pheu Thai’s election campaign, saying the policy could be adjusted to reflect the changing situation.
He said it was no longer a campaign promise but a government policy. The policy announced before parliament must move forward, and it will be implemented in accordance with the law, he noted.
Mr Julapun said while the NACC is empowered under the anti-graft law to give its opinion, its warnings and recommendations regarding the digital wallet scheme could be deemed as exceeding its mandate.
He said the target of the scheme remains unchanged but declined to say when it would be rolled out. Asked about the Feb 15 meeting, he said: “I think we’re clear that we’ll proceed. Let’s wait for the dust to settle before announcing the launch.”
Move Forward Party (MFP) MP Sirikanya Tansakul said there is a consensus on the poor state of the economy, but focusing exclusively on the digital wallet handout to provide a stimulus could delay the rollout of other key measures.
She said the digital wallet committee is made up of economists and legal experts who should be able to assess if the country is in an economic crisis and determine if the government can proceed with its plan to borrow 500 billion baht to finance the scheme.
However, she said the MFP would not initiate a petition with any public independent agency in an attempt to stop the scheme, adding this was the responsibility of parliament.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said he would clarify all issues tied to the scheme after Thursday’s meeting.