2,000 now in welfare graft crosshairs

2,000 now in welfare graft crosshairs

Khon Kaen: Provincial authorities launched a probe yesterday into more than 2,000 health volunteers and villagers suspected of complicity in graft at a provincial welfare centre.

Governor Somsak Jangtrakul said the province has instructed the Khon Kaen Public Health Office (KKPHO) to conduct an investigation into the 6.9-million baht state fund embezzlement scandal at the Khon Kaen Protection for the Destitute.

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The office will summon over 2,000 people including village health volunteers and villagers whose names appeared on a list of beneficiaries of state funds that were disbursed from the centre.

The agency, which provides financial aid for the underprivileged and HIV patients, falls under the umbrella of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS).

Mr Somsak said the probe would be conducted in compliance with a primary investigation by the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).

The results are expected within seven days.

The scandal came to light after Panida Yotpanya, 22, a social science student at Maha Sarakham University, and her three friends who worked as interns at the centre lodged a complaint with the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

The students, who attended job training there last year, said they were ordered by the centre’s director, Phuangphayom Chitkhom, and senior officials to fill in forms and sign receipts for 2,000 villagers, worth nearly 7 million baht.

Five other state officials at the centre were also implicated in the scandal.

“The probe aims to identify villagers who were paid from a state fund. It is a joint operation. So far, the PACC’s investigation has made substantial progress and there will be regular updates,” Mr Somsak said.

However he said the KKPHO was not at liberty to disclose details at this time.

Any progress made will be forwarded to the NCPO and MSDHS on a daily basis, with the results due to be presented to the media in summary form in one week, he said.

Ms Somsak said Ms Phuangphayom has been temporarily transferred to an inactive post so as not to hinder the probe.

An acting director has been appointed by the MSDHS to oversee the centre, he added.

Ms Panida has lodged a complaint against state officials for forcing her to falsify documents.

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