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Welfare corruption probe to begin at top ministerial levels

Mar 14. 2018
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By THE NATION

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THE NATIONAL Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) office on public sector corruption has been assigned to investigate each step of the budget allocation process for provincial protection centres for the destitute involved in the recent corruption scandal, NACC commissioner Pol General Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit said yesterday.

The investigation will start at the ministerial level and examine department executives and continue down the chain to welfare distribution. 

The move followed an announcement by the Public Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) this week that an investigation of 76 provincial protection centres had found alleged graft at 44 centres, while the remaining 32 centres were scheduled to be probed ahead of a May 31 deadline. 

Both the PACC and NACC are responsible for corruption investigations, with the NACC responsible for high-ranking officials at the level of division director or above and the PACC for lower-ranking ones.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam referred to Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s previous call for the PACC to investigate the budgets of all ministries, saying the commission was fully authorised to conduct the review and did not need any additional help. 

Prayut had made the comment following the discoveries of alleged corruption in the welfare scheme and the Sema Pattana Chevit Fund for underprivileged children. 

Wissanu said further action would be taken if the PACC detected irregularities.

Meanwhile, the permanent secretary for education, Karun Sakulpradit, said that he had already ordered internal audits of the various fund and the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) would today meet him to collect information about the Sema fund and its budget allocations. 

He added that the AMLO would also seize the assets of 22 people against whom the ministry had filed a police complaint at Bangkok’s Dusit Police Station on Tuesday for abetting embezzlement from the Sema fund over the past 10 years. The suspect’s bank accounts have already been frozen. 

Karun also said a disciplinary probe against an unnamed C8-level official who had confessed to embezzling Bt88 million from the fund was ongoing and would lead to her dismissal from the civil service, possibly without her pension, because she had already submitted her confession to her supervisor. 

The 22 suspects were mostly relatives of official, he said, while four other officials were facing investigations linked to the case.

The ministry will also gather information on the damages to Sema scholarship recipients, most of whom are students at from Rajaprajanukroh and Suksa Songkhro schools and the 31 Boromarajonnani College of Nursing. Fifty-three contract teachers were also affected in fiscal year 2017 because their payroll came from the fund.

Karun said remedial measures would be taken. 

The investigation would take time as the alleged embezzlement had taken place over 10 years, he said adding that the case was only detected in 2017 because of the ministry’s random checks. 

Meanwhile, Narong Sirimuang, director of Kanchanaburi’s Somdet Phrapiya Maharat Maneeyakhet School, said money from the fund used to hire contract teachers was often delivered late, adding that the problem was common among other schools as well. 

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