The decision followed an order by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha for Pol Col Roongroj Phuthiyawat, director of the PWO’s central administrative office, who allegedly implemented the purchase without the board’s authorisation, to be transferred to an inactive post at the Prime Minister’s Office pending disciplinary and criminal probes, said a source at the Commerce Ministry, reports the Bangkok Post.
Col Roongroj, meanwhile, denied any wrongdoing and said he was ready to explain to a fact-finding committee that he had to fast-track the purchase order to stem the PWO’s rising debts and steer it through a financial crisis.
The board cancelled the purchase order on Thursday, declaring the contract unlawful because Col Roongroj was only acting PWO director at the time he approved it in August. As acting director, he was not authorised to approve any project costing more than B50 million without seeking prior permission from the board, said the source.
A B2bn down payment was paid to Guardian Gloves Co in Nakhon Pathom and that money would also have to be confiscated while the PWO probes the embezzlement claim with both the Department of Special Investigation and the Anti-Money Laundering Office against Col Roongroj, said the source.
The PWO ordered a disciplinary probe against Col Roongroj on Tuesday, while an inquiry into the money trail connected to the alleged embezzlement scam was also ordered.
Col Roongroj insisted he acted within the law when approving a purchase he described as being above board.
He said that when the organisation was asked to supply 500 million boxes of surgical gloves to an exporter who intended to send the goods to the US and Europe, he saw an opportunity to write off the PWO’s mounting debts.
Seeking permission from the board would have delayed the deal and cost the PWO the chance to profit handsomely, he said.
He said he was backed by the PWO’s investment working group, and the reason Guardian Gloves was chosen to supply the gloves was because it asked for the lowest down-payment among other firms vying for the project, he said.