More than 100 welfare officials face transfer

More than 100 welfare officials face transfer

Up to 5 in each centre under scam suspicion

More than 100 officials attached to welfare centres for the underprivileged could be transferred in the wake of the embezzlement scandal involving state funds intended for helping the destitute.

Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) secretary-general Kornthip Daroj said Thursday the agency has set up subcommittees to look into possible criminal offences linked to alleged malfeasance at 24 welfare centres. These centres are in the first batch under criminal investigation by the PACC.

It is expected that more than 100 directors and other officials at the centres would be prosecuted, Lt Col Kornthip said, noting that four or five officials at each of these centres were believed connected to the wrongdoing.

A list of these officials would be sent to the Social Development and Human Security Ministry (SDHSM), which will consider whether to transfer them, he said.

Although at least 100 officers could be transferred, all 76 centres across the country would still be able to function since there are still many other officials who were not involved in wrongdoing, Lt Col Kornthip said.

The PACC is also keeping track of five high-ranking SDHSM officials found to be linked to the scandal, he said, adding further information is being gathered to forward their case to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) for further consideration.

The PACC, which falls under the Justice Ministry, focuses on corruption cases involving low-ranking state officials while the NACC, an independent body, zeroes in on politicians and high-ranking officials.

The Anti-Money Laundering Office, meanwhile, is duty-bound to look into the money trail of those involved in the alleged embezzlement, he said. Some money from approved budgets was found to have been transferred into the bank accounts of some SDHSM executives, he noted.

At this stage, there's no evidence that politicians or ministers are linked to any offences, Lt Col Kornthip said.

"After the PACC examined malfeasance cases in connection with state funds for the destitute for 2017, evidence pointed to it having occurred at 56 centres," Lt Col Kornthip said, adding the preliminary probe into all 76 provincial centres would be concluded this month.

More probes examining spending in other fiscal years would then be carried out, he said.

It is not certain whether the PACC would be solely responsible for investigating this or whether responsibility would also be delegated to the government-initiated Anti Corruption Centre, according to Lt Col Kornthip.

The probe into the provincial centres for the underprivileged comes after a Mahasarakham University student, Panida Yotpanya, and three friends who worked as interns at the Khon Kaen Protection Centre for the Destitute lodged a complaint with the National Council for Peace and Order. The centre handles the budget to be distributed to the underprivileged and HIV patients.

They claim they were ordered by the centre director Phuangphayom Chitkhom and other senior officials to fill in forms and sign fraudulent receipts for 2,000 villagers, worth nearly 7 million baht.

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