Friday, December 06, 2019

Minister orders probe into annual loss of Bt1.5-bn from fund

Sep 19. 2018
Labour minister Pol General Adul Sangsingkaew.
Labour minister Pol General Adul Sangsingkaew.
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By THE NATION

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LABOUR MINISTER Pol General Adul Sangsingkaew has assigned a fact-finding panel to launch and complete in 15 days a probe into allegations that associations advocating the cause of those with disability had misappropriated funds.

They have been accused of siphoning off as much as Bt1.5 billion a year from training/seminar expenses and funds for employing the physically challenged.

President of the Network for Protection of Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Preeda Limnontakul, along with the alleged victims, yesterday petitioned the Department of Special Investigation to investigate the allegations and provide protection to the witnesses. He said if the case remains unsolved, he would petition the United Nations.

Adul told the media yesterday that this was the first such corruption complaint since his ministry had implemented job promotions for disabled persons in 2009. 

Adul said his ministry’s mission, as per the Promotion and Development of Quality of life of Persons with Disabilities Act, included ensuring business establishments adhered to the principle of hiring of one physically challenged person per 100 workers, by employing those who had registered with the ministry’s Department of Employment (DOE). 

So far, in fiscal year 2018, a total of 1,979 physically challenged people had registered with the DOE and 1,565 of them were hired in available job positions. He said his ministry was not responsible for the money that those establishments – which had failed to hire any or fell short in hiring the required number of physically challenged personnel – had to contribute directly to the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Fund. He said this year 14,623 employers had contributed to the fund at the rate of Bt109,000 per annum per person in lieu of their salary.

Adul said his ministry would check DOE provincial branch offices, which oversee job-promotion measures, including providing space for goods and services by the physically challenged, arranging subcontracting work for them, and other assistance such as sign language interpreters, if they had followed the regulations.

After that the DOE branch offices would send photocopies of related documents about aid provided to the physically challenged and their caretakers to the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS)’s provincial branch offices and the Department for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEP) to do follow-up checks.

MSDHS Minister Anantaporn Kanjanarat said the alleged corruption in training/seminars arranged by associations, as well as the hiring of physically challenged persons, was the Labour Ministry’s responsibility. He said this should be probed on a case-by-case basis, as it was unlikely to be a case of systemic corruption.

MSDHS spokesperson Supatcha Suttipol said 36,833 physically challenged persons were employed under the 100:1 ratio rule. She insisted that the DEP had not received any complaints from such workers about their association/foundation taking any illegal commission from their pay. She said the authorities would check on Preeda’s allegations, including his claim of a threat to his physically challenged friend who was forced to sign consent not to pursue legal action in exchange for Bt20,000. 

Preeda, who had earlier this week complained about this case to the Office of the National Human Rights Commission, said the MSDHS should not hurriedly dismiss the corruption allegations but instead launch a through investigation. 

Citing from stories told to him by 50 victims, Preeda said a Chon Buri company had hired a physically challenged person in January 2016, who then resigned a few months later. He now lives in Ayutthaya and continues to get paid at Bt7,000 a month – of which Bt2,000 was deducted as commission. In another case, 100 physically challenged persons in Phetchaburi province had given their disability identification cards “for employment” to a company representative who then paid them Bt500 per head along and gave them a worker ID card, he added. He said he had uploaded all the information so that officials, if they wished to probe and solve the problem, could have access and launch an investigation. He said the process should take only a month to complete.

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