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New probe of self-help centre budgets hints at massive graft

national March 14, 2018 05:00

By THE NATION

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BUDGET allocations for self-help settlements in Udon Thani and Khon Kaen have shown irregularities after an investigation by the Public Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).



The alleged graft may be similar to that reported at various provincial protection centres for the destitute, which are also being investigated, PACC chief assistant Pol Lt-Colonel Wannop Somjintanakul said yesterday.

The number of beneficiaries in the new cases was fewer, but the budgets were much bigger than those for the provincial centres.

The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security’s Department of Social Development and Welfare annually distributes funds to 59 poor communities, comprising 43 self-help settlements and 16 highland community development centres, with a budget of Bt300 million. 

The department is also in charge of the 76 provincial protection centres for the destitute, 44 of which have shown signs of graft, while the remaining 32 are being probed ahead of a May 31 completion deadline.

A former director of a provincial protection centre, who asked not to be named, said some self-help settlements with fewer than 50,000 members had received millions of baht per year. 

High-ranking officials such as director-generals or permanent secretaries should be able to answer why such disproportional budgets were allocated to some, he said, suggesting that normally each self-help settlement had received from Bt500,000 to Bt1 million annually, but budgets had suspiciously increased to millions of baht.

He added that investigators should not just focus on “downstream” graft, but also on intermediaries and the origins of the money. 

Coordination between the department and provincial centres could have been behind budget allocations, he said.

Meanwhile, a team of PACC officials yesterday investigated alleged graft linked to Udon Thani’s Huai Luang Self-Help Settlement and collected testimonials from 20 Ban Noen Chaiporn (Moo 9) residents. The สจvillagers, who are over 60, participated in the settlement’s handicraft training project last May while another group of 20 attended it the previous year. 

They were told to pose for pictures holding Bt2,000 each, which was then returned to officials who claimed the money was for purchasing training materials. Some villagers were later given Bt300 each. 

PACC investigator Rakkla Sathansuk said there had been a misuse of funds because allowances were supposed to be distributed as cash to each entitled villager, but the settlement had instead provided vocational activities. He added that there were 2,500 potential victims from seven villages.

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