The roles of digital media in developing and strengthening public procurement in Thailand

Sirisophonphong, Phannarai (2019) The roles of digital media in developing and strengthening public procurement in Thailand. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This study examines the use of digital technology in the fight against corruption in public procurement in Thailand. The study aims to ascertain whether, and to what extent, two direct anti-corruption tools inspired by risk-based approaches or principal-agent theory are effective in controlling corruption in a country where collective action problems exist. These tools are: (i) e-bidding, a new, entirely online procurement system which replaces the previous system of e-auctions, which uses a mix of online and offline bidding methods and (ii) e-whistleblowing, an online reporting platform.

Principal-agent theory suggests that effective tools should have the capacity to increase individuals’ perception that the expected costs of being corrupt is greater than the benefits. E-bidding is a managerialist strategy to prevent corruption. Online functions should increase the costs of corruption by reducing corrupt opportunities. E-whistleblowing is an interventionist strategy to detect corruption that has already occurred. In addition to increasing the chances of getting caught, ICTs could lower the individuals’ perceived cost of being a whistleblower, thus facilitating whistleblowing and corruption investigation. However, collective action theory suggests that the context of a highly corrupt country is unlikely to support the use of direct anti-corruption approaches. This study proposes (i) a managerialist hypothesis that e-bidding does not reduce the risk of corruption and (ii) an interventionist hypothesis that e-whistleblowing platforms are not effective anti-corruption tools in detecting corruption.

The study uses a mixed methods methodology combining qualitative and quantitative approaches. The researcher conducted in-depth interviews with Thai public authorities. To validate the qualitative findings, (i) regressions are used to measure corruption risk at different stages of e-bidding and e-auction; and (ii) statistical data on corruption cases in Thailand is presented.

The findings suggest that digital technology in anti-corruption efforts in Thailand (i) can reduce corruption risk only to a limited extent and (ii) seems less effective in detecting corruption. Firstly, e-bidding does not reduce the risk of corruption relative to the e-auction system. Even though e-bidding performs better over time in its first year, corruption is still possible regardless of procurement methods. Secondly, the benefit of e-whistleblowing is less likely to overcome the problems of traditional whistleblowing and the risk attached. Online tip-offs mostly do not assist corruption investigation.

The findings add to the literature that in a developing country where has long been plagued with corruption, it turns out that corrupt practices keep on going or getting worse. Digital technology may enhance public procurement and whistleblowing procedures. However, without indirect anti-corruption approaches or institutional pre-conditions such as political will and strong civil society, the use of direct anti-corruption interventions on their own is less likely to increase individuals’ perception that it is not worth participating in corrupt activities or it is worth the effort to oppose corrupt practices. The country is likely to slide back into systemic corruption as a result of collective action problems.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Corruption, public procurement, whistleblowing.
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
Supervisor's Name: Munro, Dr. Neil and Claassen, Dr. Christopher
Date of Award: 2019
Depositing User: Ms Phannarai Sirisophonphong
Unique ID: glathesis:2019-74337
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Aug 2019 13:42
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2019 13:52
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.74337

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