E-auction rules revamp released

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Deputy Prime Minister Visanu Krue-ngarm has unveiled the draft of the overhauled e-auction rules, expected to take effect from Feb 1, although he could not guarantee that it would totally stamp out bid collusion. Mr Visanu was assigned by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to revise the e-auction rules in the wake of mounting complaints about the process. The government decided to put the brakes on e-auctions undertaken by any ministry for large projects worth over one billion baht each until the regulations were reviewed. Mr Visanu said the revamped rules empower the Comptroller-General's Department to oversee the processes nationwide, appoint a monitoring panel and organising the auction venues. To avoid specification fixing by contractors, the draft terms of reference (ToR) will be posted on the internet for seven days for public input. Comments compiled will then be forwarded for consideration by a panel which will decide whether to use the input to amend the ToR. After the ToR are finalised, the median price would be set. Under the tightened rules, there would be a cap on the bid. Only technical bids must be tendered in writing and submitted in envelopes. Any bidder rejected by the technical screening panel can appeal the ruling with the relevant committee. In such cases, the whole auction process will be suspended until the committee considers the appeal and makes a decision. Auction venues will be fixed by the Comptroller-General's Department anywhere it sees fit. E-auctions may be held in provinces outside that of the project site, Mr Visanu said. E-auction expenses of 30,000 baht will be jointly borne by bidders while the process will be cancelled if only two firms submit bids. The bidding prices will be known in the last five minutes of the auction. Bidders, sitting in separate rooms, will have to reveal their prices at the same time to see who has offered the lowest bid. The auction process will be recorded on closed-circuit camera. After a bid winner is announced, any party suspecting foul play may appeal. The project would then be put on hold until an investigation is completed. The Comptroller-General's Department will take legal action if any corruption or irregularity is found. Mr Visanu said the new bidding method would be effective in preventing collusion to a certain extent although it would not completely resolve the problem. ''Keeping bids below the median price is enough of a success,'' Mr Visanu said.

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