Arkhom wades into pension return row
Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith on Wednesday ordered state agencies to help solve cases of elderly people required to return tens of thousands of baht to the state after officials found they had no right to the elderly allowance they had received for years.
The minister said it was responsibility of local administrative organisations to proceed with the collection of duplicate benefits, in this case the elderly allowance.
Mr Arkhom said he personally thought that everyone should be eligible for the elderly allowance which should be separated from other benefits one receives from the government.
The Comptroller-General's Department recently asked Buan Losuwan, an 89-year-old woman from Buri Ram, to return allowance payments totalling 84,000 baht after it found she had already received a special pension following the death of her army officer son who died while on duty in 2001.
As his next of kin, she inherited his special pension of 10,000 baht a month paid by the army.
According to Interior Ministry regulations, those receiving a state pension or special pensions are not eligible for the elderly allowance.
The minister, however, insisted local administrative organisations had to take back the elderly allowance paid to Ms Buan according to the law, but she could repay the money in installments.
Department of Local Administration director-general Prayoon Rattanasene said Ms Buan's was not the first case. When the local administrative organisation in her hometown learned about her problem, it stepped in to help negotiate the repayments by installments, he said.
Government units would be seen negligent in their duty under the law if they did nothing to take back the allowance, said the director-general.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday instructed the Finance Ministry to take care of Ms Buan's case, saying this kind of problem should not happen again.
Activist Srisuwan Janya posted on his Facebook page that he will file a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman 28 on Ms Buan's case.
In his post he said the Comptroller-General's Department exercised power unlawfully by sending letters to local administrative organisations ordering them to make the elderly return their allowances.
Elderly people who received the allowance said they were not aware they had no right to it, said Mr Srisuwan.