Top official tied to welfare scam

Top official tied to welfare scam

Organised crime linked to poor-fund pilfering

Thanittha Chanthanarerk (right), director of a welfare centre for the underprivileged in Samut Prakan, presents classified evidence and demands the prosecution of former permanent secretary Puttipat Lertchaowasit (inset) in the embezzlement of 90% of government welfare funds. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Thanittha Chanthanarerk (right), director of a welfare centre for the underprivileged in Samut Prakan, presents classified evidence and demands the prosecution of former permanent secretary Puttipat Lertchaowasit (inset) in the embezzlement of 90% of government welfare funds. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

The director of a welfare centre for the underprivileged in Samut Prakan has petitioned the prime minister to instigate disciplinary and criminal punishment against a former permanent secretary over an embezzlement scandal.

The former permanent secretary of the Social Development and Human Security Ministry, Puttipat Lertchaowasit, is facing a probe over alleged embezzlement of state funds meant for helping the destitute.

Director Thanittha Chanthanarerk lodged the petition Wednesday with the government's public service centre at Government House.

She presented evidence including information associated with budget allocations to welfare centres and the number of people who needed the funds.

She said the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) probes into possible criminal offences linked to alleged malfeasance at the welfare centres had not tackled the source of the problems.

Ms Thanittha said the former permanent secretary might have committed offences involving an organised crime network as irregularities could be seen in budget allocation.

For example, in a case involving a village in Chiang Mai's San Kamphaeng district, where there were only 2,500 residents, a budget of tens of millions of baht was allocated to the village.

After the money was disbursed, an official in charge at the provincial welfare centre resigned immediately, she said.

Meanwhile, a budget of more than 60 million baht was allocated to Chiang Mai's highland people development centre, which handles 300,000 people.

As for the Samut Prakan welfare centre, which is also under investigation by the PACC, Ms Thanittha said there were 1.2 million people who needed the welfare fund and the centre should have received about 7-8 million baht.

But only 700,000 baht was allocated to the centre.

She also mentioned some cases where some village heads who claimed to be low-income earners had received the welfare money.

But later examination found those village heads were well-to-do.

She said she had reported the findings to the Samut Prakan governor, and that the PACC was welcome to investigate.

Mr Puttipat and his deputy Narong Kongkam were transferred to inactive posts at the Prime Minister's Office pending an investigation as to whether they were involved with the state fund fraud.

A preliminary probe has confirmed the two executives are implicated in the embezzlement scandal, Social Development and Human Security Minister Anantaporn Kanjanarat said earlier.

Ms Thanittha's move came on the same day Napa Settakorn, director-general of the Social Development and Welfare Department, revealed the result of a severe disciplinary inquiry into the welfare centre in Khon Kaen, where 6.9 million baht is said to have been embezzled.

The dismissal of Khon Kaen welfare director Phuangphayom Chitkhong, and a social welfare division chief at the centre was recommended.

The two officials were suspended from the civil service in early April.

Ms Napa said the pair had not received any of their salaries or welfare benefits since then.

She said the inquiry committee has found that the two officials forged documents by using the names of people who attended training sessions as underprivileged people who needed the welfare money.

The panel also found that the welfare money was not given to all those who were entitled to it, Ms Napa said.

Meanwhile, Minister Anantaporn will chair a meeting tomorrow to consider disciplinary punishment against the two officials, based on the inquiry panel's recommendations, Ms Napa said.

She added that a committee will also be set up to evaluate damages so the two officials will be made to pay compensation for losses incurred by the alleged embezzlement.

An investigation into the other two officials involved in the scandal at the Khon Kaen welfare centre has yet to be concluded.

Regarding the probe into alleged irregularities at the welfare centre in Chiang Mai, Ms Napa said that the director of the centre and some officials involved have been charged with committing severe disciplinary offences and the accused have the right to defend themselves.

She said the PACC sent information regarding 156 officials in several provinces.

Of them, 20 face disciplinary action and 136 will face legal prosecution.

The probe into the provincial centres for the protection of the destitute comes after Mahasarakham University student Panida Yotpanya and three friends who worked as interns at the welfare centre in Khon Kaen lodged a complaint with the National Council for Peace and Order.



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