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Senior officials face axe for welfare fund fraud

national May 03, 2018 01:00

By JAKRAWAN SALAYTOO
THE NATION

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AUTHORITIES FIND CLEAR EVIDENCE OF DOCUMENT FORGERY AND EMBEZZLEMENT



THE SOCIAL Development and Human Security Ministry is poised to fire two senior officials for their role in the embezzlement of state funds for the destitute. 

Following their dismissal, they very likely will also have to pay compensation for damage caused. 

These two officials have not been identified by name. But at the time of wrongdoings, one of them headed the Khon Kaen Protection Centre for the Destitute and the other was the centre’s social-welfare chief. 

“A panel investigating them for grave disciplinary offences has concluded that they should be fired,” Social Development and Welfare Department director-general Napa Setthakorn said yesterday.

The nationwide investigation into the disbursement of state funds for the underprivileged started after a university student, who detected irregularities at the Khon Kaen Protection Centre for the Destitute during her internship there, blew the whistle. 

In the wake of the scandal, the ministry’s permanent secretary Puttipat Lertchaowasit and deputy permanent secretary Narong Kongkham were transferred. As the investigation hinted at possible wrongdoing, the Cabinet last month ordered that they be dismissed from service unless the investigation clears their name in the end. 

According to Napa, authorities have now uncovered clear evidence against the former director of Khon Kaen Protection Centre for the Destitute and its former social-welfare chief. 

“They had apparently engaged in document forgery and made just partial payments to qualified recipients. Such actions were strongly suggestive of corruption. They were by no means just about failure to fully comply with the rules,” Napa said. 

Social Development and Human Security Minister General Anantaporn Kanjanarat heads the ministry’s civil-service panel, which will convene tomorrow and consider the proposed dismissal of the two accused officials. 

These officials have been suspended from duty since early April, without the right to receive salary or welfare.

The dismissal, as recommended by the investigation panel, will also strip them of the right to any severance pay or pensions.

“A panel will also be established to calculate damage caused by the offending officials so as to specify the amount of compensation they should be required to pay,” Napa added. 

She said two other officials at the Khon Kaen Protection Centre for the Destitute were now being investigated for non-serious offences. “The probe has not yet concluded,” she said. 

Asked about the alleged corruption at the Chiang Mai Protection Centre for the Destitute, Napa said the ministry’s probe should conclude before the end of this month. 

The ministry has conducted separate probes, as the Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) has also looked into the alleged irregularities. 

At present, the PACC has officially made accusations against 156 officials at 35 centres run by the ministry. 

“Of them, 20 are now facing disciplinary action while the rest will face legal action,” Napa confirmed. 

Meanwhile, the director of the Samut Prakan Protection Centre for the Destitute, Tanittha Jantanarirk, handed a petition to Prime Minister and National Council for Peace and Order chief General Prayut Chan-o-cha via a government complaint-receiving centre in Bangkok yesterday. 

“I believe the former permanent secretary [Puttipat] should face both disciplinary and legal punishment,” she said. 

Tanittha complained that officials at places that refused to engage in corrupt practices had received just a meagre budget. 

“Samut Prakan’s population is at about 1.2 million but my centre has received just Bt700,000 in budget. Surprisingly, another centre has received more than Bt60 million in budget despite the fact that the local population in their jurisdiction is just 300,000,” she said.