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Government unsure if local administration budgets can be used to buy vaccines



PHOTO: Facebook/ ศาลาว่าการกรุงเทพมหานคร

In what could put yet another spanner in the works, the Thai government is questioning if local authorities can purchase vaccines and whether state-allocated budgets can be used for this purpose. The Bangkok Post reports that officials at the Interior Ministry fear a chaotic rollout, with several local administrative organisations racing to order supplies of Sinopharm, the latest vaccine to be approved for emergency use.

Last week, the Chulabhorn Royal Academy confirmed its intention to order Sinopharm doses directly from China, which it says will supplement the government’s vaccine allocation for the national rollout, set to begin next Monday.

The ministry has now referred the question of LOAs purchasing vaccines to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration. The PM has also expressed concerns about how or if LOAs can afford to purchase vaccines and if they can legally use their allocated budgets to do so. Prayut Chan-o-cha insists he has no objection in theory, but points out that there may be restrictions in place which prevent them using funds for the purchase of vaccines. He says the laws governing the matter need to be checked.

“If they can undo this (restriction), by all means go ahead and do it. I don’t want the issue to become politicised.”

According to deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam, LAOs would need to ask the Interior Ministry to lift the restriction on how state-allocated funds can be spent.

“Otherwise, the LAOs will be in trouble with the State Audit Office for wrongful utilisation of state funds.”

He adds that LAOs cannot buy vaccines directly from manufacturers, but would need to order from their appointed representatives. In the case of Sinopharm this would be the CRA.

However, the Interior Ministry remains concerned about the potential chaos resulting from over 7,000 LAOs across the country trying to buy their own vaccines. Minister Anupong Paojinda points out that some are wealthier than others, and the CCSA must decide if purchasing power can be devolved or if the government should obtain the vaccines for them.

Meanwhile, Somsak Kittithornkul, president of Thailand’s LAOs, has called on the government to clarify whether they can or cannot purchase vaccines. He suggests procurement could be partially-funded by central government, given the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis on many local economies.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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