BANGKOK, THAILAND –
Media OutReach – 14 June 2023 –
Mr. Niwatchai Kasemmongkol, secretary-general of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), delivered a lecture on “Open Data: Anti-Corruption Weaponry in Digital Age” at the PPTV FORUM 2023, on May 25, 2023. Taking up the theme of Open Government: Game Changer in Fight against Corruption, the event was held at Movenpick BDMS Wellness Resort Bangkok.
Kasemmongkol said that the promotion of transparency and open government data are the core of good governance or good public management. Both the United Nations and the World Bank have recognized this promotion as key to successful development efforts in many nations around the world. Such principles are also enshrined in Sections 76 and 164 of Thailand’s Constitution.
Section 76 stipulates that the state must promote the development of morality and transparency in accordance with the principles of good public management among all types of state organizations so as to deliver maximum benefits to people via state functions and services that uphold equality, quality, efficiency and transparency. People therefore are direct beneficiaries. Section 164, meanwhile, states that the government must ensure and arrange for good public management. Therefore, the promotion of transparency via open government data and ethical state operations have had utmost importance.
Good governance or good public management has six pillars namely 1) Rule of Law; 2) Transparency & Data Disclosure that is being discussed today; 3) Morality; 4) Public Participation in State Operations; 5) Responsibility; and 6) Cost-efficient & Time-Efficient State Operations.
Regarding the NACC Board’s and the government’s policies on the promotion of good governance and anti-corruption in the public sector, multidimensional guidelines have been laid down as follows:
1. The promotion is enshrined in the constitution;
2. The promotion is enshrined in the Anti-Corruption Act and many laws on the administration of state affairs; and
3. The promotion is a part of national strategies, master plans, and action plans of each government agency.
The NACC Board and the government have issued many measures to enhance the integrity of state officials. Nowadays, state officials’ corruption risk is significantly lower than in the past. Even if corrupt practices are undetected in the beginning, investigations can be launched retroactively.
One of the anti-corruption measures used by the NACC and the government is the promotion of transparency. There are many tools for the promotion such as information laws and legislations that upgrade digital-government operations.
Kasemmongkol said that people needed to physically go to government agencies to receive their services in the past. Officials also had the right to call in people and have face-to-face meetings involved talks. Negotiations for bribes may emerge during such meetings. So, if our bureaucratic system has reduced face-to-face meetings between people and state officials, or if we use other means of contacts, the risk of bribery talks will be lower. The new way of contacts can also save state budget as well as people’s money. Several countries have already developed digital systems to facilitate state operations or digitalized state services.
The development of digital-government operations starts by integrating systems for enhanced efficiency or service delivery in the way that reduces the exercising of state officials’ judgements, curbs the risk of corruption, and promotes greater government-data disclosure for better transparency. The NACC, in collaboration with the government, has already pushed for several relevant laws for the development of state operations and good governance. Moreover, the NACC has launched the Integrity and Transparency Assessment (ITA) as a key tool.
On laws related to the promotion of transparency and good governance in the public sector, the Act on Management of State Affairs by Electronic Means B.E. 2565 stipulates that to seek an approval, a permit, a tax refund, a certificate, a registration, a construction permit or the likes, people no longer have to queue up physically at government agencies. They can just file requests electronically. After this act came into force and related systems sprang into operations, people can just contact authorities online. They do not have to travel to government agencies. Such approach saves people’s time in contacting government agencies. There is no need for face-to-face contact, which may lead to negotiations for bribes.
Several other laws have also been introduced to increase bureaucracy’s efficiency and to prevent bribery. For example, the Licensing Facilitation Act B.E. 2558 requires that each government agency specify clearly how long it will take to respond to each request. In the past, people had waited really long to get response because there was no clear timeframe. Traders, entrepreneurs, and people who wanted fast results thus ended up paying bribes to shorten the period of government agency’s request review. However, with the Licensing Facilitation Act in place, agencies of all ministries and departments must release a manual detailing how long it will take for them to complete each task. If they fail to comply with the timeframe, a person contacting them may file a complaint. This is just one of many laws that country have introduced to curb corruption risks.
Regarding the promotion of open data, the NACC Board and the government have worked together in preparing several measures. One of them is ITA. Everyone wants to see transparency in the public sector and comprehensive data disclosure so, currently basic data that are useful to both the people’s sector and the private sector; government agencies’ performance data, and importantly data related to budgets and procurements are open data that all government agencies must release to the public. They must be held accountable and ready to provide explanations to the public. Such data had not been treated as the government’s confidential information anymore. The principles behind such data disclosure have applied to NACC’s ITA model. All government agencies therefore have to embrace these principles as they seek to comply with ITA criteria.
Kasemmongkol thought that many of people must be quite familiar with ITA and that some of them may have doubts or misunderstandings about it. Therefore, he provided clarification about ITA and its objectives.
He said ITA is not mainly designed as an assessment of corrupt practices. In essence, it is about assessing good governance in regard to management and tools used for the implementation of anti-corruption projects / activities. It is therefore a tool for state agencies to improve their operations or e-services, and importantly to disclose data in line with laws and strategies, paving the way for these agencies to have good governance and lower corruption or abuse-of-authority risks. Based on its indicators and assessment topics, ITA gives 95 points to the management and implementation of projects / activities and five points to the awareness of corruption issues among personnel.
To make it easier to understand, he compared ITA to a basic health check. With this check, we will be able to identify abnormalities in one’s body or if any body function is below standard. Upon learning about the abnormalities or the function that fails to meet proper standard, patients need to adjust their behaviors.
He emphasized that ITA is not a medicine. It cannot provide recovery. But patients can recover or regain good health, if they change their behaviors (for example by improving their operations and management). Family members must also help by creating a proper environment
(for example by issuing supportive legal measures and state supervision). If patients follow such guidelines, they can become stronger. But if they do not change or ignore problems, cancer may develop. In the end, their illness may worsen to the point of a crisis and the NACC will have to use legal actions to remove those cancerous problems.
Kasemmongkol said that during the past many years, changes have been happening with the digitalization of state operations. Data disclosure has increased in a tangible manner in compliance with laws.
Here are some tangible examples of open-data changes and digital public services.
Significant Changes Related to
OIT (Open Data Integrity) Indicators
No. of agencies
Increase from 2020
Disclosure of contact information
Online Q&A channels
Disclosure of annual work plan
Development of E-Service
Disclosure of annual expenditure plan
Biannual disclosure of budget disbursement data
Disclosure of procurement plans
Monthly disclosure of procurement results
The NACC Board and the government have used the aforementioned measures and framework to improve state operations and deter state officials’ wayward behaviors. If all sides have followed these measures and framework on a continual basis, all civil servants and state officials will become familiar with such practices. Over time, their conscience and attitude will change in line with such standards. They will behave accordingly, regardless of these measures and framework. Civil servants and state officials will in the end be accustomed to serving people, ensuring public convenience, and refraining from corruption or abuse of authority.
The issuer is solely responsible for the content of this announcement.