Generations of senior managers behindwelfare fraud,claims exstaffer

national March 08, 2018 04:00

By The Nation

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The alleged embezzlement of state funds involving protection centres for the destitute in many provinces was part of a long-established, nationwide network linked to senior officials in the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, a retired official said yesterday.



This kind of irregularity, involving large amounts of state funds allocated to help the poor and needy, had existed since the ministry’s Department of Social Development and Welfare was known as the Department of Public Welfare under the Interior Ministry, according to the exofficial.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that after the agency became part of the new ministry, corrupt, highranking officials before their retirement “planted their trusted people” in key positions at the Department of Social Development and Welfare. The department is the ministry’s largest and is often allocated the biggest portion of its budget.

“Planted” officials later set up their own networks of trusted people at different protection centres for the destitute and selfhelp settlements throughout the country, which are overseen by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.

Officials at those agencies in the provinces often skimmed funds allocated from the ministry and always kept a large share as “payback” for the senior officials in Bangkok who had sent them to those offices, according to the source.

“This practice has been passed on for generations [of officials],” the source told Nation TV’s “Hunt for Truth” investigative reporting programme.

“This kind of corruption first happened when there was the Department of Public Welfare. That was before the major bureaucratic reform in 2002,” the source said.

Officials at the provincial offices who sent a “satisfactory share” to Bangkok were often rewarded with coveted executive positions in the ministry, according to the source.

The alleged irregularities involve the budget for “specialpurpose grants to help the destitute” that is allocated to the Department of Social Development and Welfare. The budget is intended for lowincome families, the homeless, HIV patients and destitute people who need money to return to their home provinces. 

The alleged scandal was first exposed by a university student who was sent to train as part of a community development course at the Khon Kaen Protection Centre for the Destitute. Panida Yotpanya, a senior student at Maha Sarakham University, reported a suspected irregularity to authorities after she was ordered to fill in false information on official documents and falsify the signatures of supposed aid recipients. 

Her claim led to investigations by the Public AntiCorruption Commission (PACC) of dozens of protection centres for the destitute all over the country.

The investigators discovered that other local officials and residents had also been involved in the irregularities, in addition to officials at the provincial agencies, PACC secretarygeneral Korntip Daroj said yesterday.

Those people were involved by obtaining benefits or influencing the irregularities in the first place, he added.

“However, the investigation has yet to find any connection to local politicians or the permanent secretary or deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security,” the PACC chief said.

Of the 37 main targets of the probe, investigators have found suspected irregular behaviour in 24 provinces, according to Korntip.

He said the PACC expected to complete its investigation into all 76 protection centres for the destitute by the end of May.

In a related development, a team of PACC investigators met 84 local residents in Khon Kaen whose names were used without their consent to claim aid. 

The people are mainly villagers and health volunteers. Many told investigators that they had never applied for aid and that their signatures had been falsified, with photocopies of their ID cards being used without their permission. Others said they had received a small share of aid requested on their behalf without their knowledge.

 

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