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Destitute fund probe reveals ‘solid evidence’ of fraud at five centres

national February 20, 2018 05:00

By THE NATION

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EVIDENCE SUGGESTS state officials in at least five provinces have embezzled state funds intended for the destitute.



“There is solid evidence of corrupt practices in Khon Kaen, Chiang Mai, Bueng Kan, Nong Khai and Surat Thani,” Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) acting secretary-general Korntip Daroj said yesterday.

He was referring to results from an ongoing investigation into protection centres for the destitute across the country. The investigation started after a university student, Panida Yotpanya, blew the whistle on alleged irregularities at the Khon Kaen Protection Centre where she was an intern.

“Similar corrupt methods have been used,” Korntip said of the other cases. 

Last Friday, a PACC team interviewed people in Bueng Kan and found that just four of 36 people in a local village had received money from the Bueng Kan Protection Centre for the Destitute despite the fact that all their names were listed as aid recipients. 

PACC assistant secretary-general Pol Lt-Colonel Wannop Somjintanakul said yesterday that in Tambon Chang Sai of Surat Thani’s Kanchanadit district, more than 200 people reported receiving Bt2,000 financial help from the Surat Thani Protection Centre for the Destitute, but the centre’s records claimed they had received Bt3,000 each. 

Wijan Nurak, a village head, said his name appeared on the list of people receiving financial help from the government but he had never received any. 

“I am not destitute. I don’t need such assistance,” he said. 

He suspected that his name had been used after he submitted his signature on documents to attend a training programme in electrical-wire installation. 

According to Korntip, there are 70 protection centres for the destitute across the country. The PACC plans to investigate 31 centres before the end of May, as those had received a budget of more than Bt1 million each. It has already set up 15 teams to investigate these centres. 

The Chiang Mai Protection Centre for the Destitute has been one of the biggest budget recipients, having received as much as Bt8.58 million. The investigation team found that 20 people whose names appeared as recipients of financial help from the Chiang Mai centre had not received any money, and the signatures on documents used to claim the money were not theirs. 

In a related development, Mahasarakham University recently released a statement honouring Panida. 

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