Thai Welfare Fund Whistle-Blowers Put Into Witness Protection

Thai Welfare Fund Whistle-Blowers Put Into Witness Protection
Officials from the Public Sector Anti Corruption Commission (PACC) meet local residents in Khon Kaen. – Photo Chakkrapan Natanri

 

KHON KAEN – The Public Sector Anti Corruption Commission (PACC) has praised a university student and a former employee of a welfare centre for low-income earners in Khon Kaen for exposing corruption at the centre and provided protection for them.

Lt Col Korntip Daroj, acting secretary-general of the PACC, on Tuesday presented certificates to honour Panida Yospanda, a student at Maha Sarakham University’s humanities and social science faculty, and Natthakarn Muenphol, a former employee of Khon Kaen welfare centre, for their roles in exposing alleged falsification of receipts for reimbursement at the centre.

Ms Panida and Ms Natthakarn were role models against corruption. They were brave when they revealed themselves and travelled to Bangkok to lodge a complaint with the army’s complaint centre. This prompted the PACC to launch a probe and expand the investigation into other welfare centres across the country, said Lt Col Korntip.

The PACC has sent 15 teams of officials to investigate 76 welfare centres for low-income earners and found alleged corruption at some centres.

A preliminary investigation found a welfare centre in Chiang Mai got involved in alleged corruption similar to the Khon Kaen case, said the acting PACC secretary-general.

Chiang Mai had been allocated 493 million baht in welfare funds in fiscal 2017, the highest of all provinces.

Receipts and documents of low-income earners eligible for 1,000-3,000 baht state assistance each had been sent to authorities for reimbursement. However, the payments were not made to recipients.

The PACC found alleged irregularities in the welfare funds in five provinces — Khon Kaen, Chiang Mai, Bung Kan, Nong Khai and Surat Thani, he said.

In Nong Khai, 17 people were entitled to state assistance of 34,000 baht each from a welfare centre. However, they were paid only 10,000 baht, said Lt Col Korntip.

Two days after the PACC launched the probe, officials at the centre gave the remaining 24,000 baht to each recipient, he said.

On witness protection, the Internal Security Operations Command has already sent soldiers to provide protection for Ms Panida, while local police were sent to escort Ms Natthakarn, said Lt Col Korntip.

Ms Natthakarn said she decided to expose the falsification of receipts for reimbursement at the welfare centre because she saw the hardships faced by low-income earners and wanted to help them.

If she had turned a blind eye to corruption, she would have felt ashamed of herself, said the former welfare employee.

Ms Panida said she has now joined a witness protection programme, which made her feel safer. She decided to lodge the complaint because she found there were alleged irregularities in the welfare fund payments.

By King-Oua Laohong
Bangkok Post

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