Two senior officials transferred as graft probe into the fund for the destitute expands

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday (Feb 23) ordered the abrupt transfer of Social Development and Human Security permanent secretary Puttipat Lertchaowasit and his deputy, Narong Kongkham to perform duties at the Prime Minister’s Office.

The transfer of the two senior officials was intended to facilitate the ongoing investigation into alleged widespread corruption in the spending of the fund for the destitute by over 30 centres for the protection of the destitute across the country.

The probe is jointly undertaken by the Office of the Auditor-General and the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).

Investigation by the OAG found there was bases of corruption in the use of the fund for the destitute since Mr Puttipat was director-general of Welfare Development Department.

The PM’s transfer order mentioned that some senior officials of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security might be involved in the alleged corruption and a panel would be set up to further investigate the case to ensure fairness to those implicated.

The two officials’ new posts are senior advisors to the Prime Minister and will report to Deputy Prime Minister Gen Chatchai Sarikulya.

Investigation first started at the Khon Kaen’s centre for the protection of the destitute after a group of student trainees blew the whistle about the alleged corruption when they were told to falsify receipts about fund disbursement to the poor. The probe later expanded to cover similar centres in Chiang Mai, Surat Thani, Bueng Kan, Nong Khai, Nan and Trat provinces with similar results of fund abuses by the officials concerned.

Lately, all the centres are under investigation by the OAG and the PACC.

Mr Puttipat recently told Thai PBS that there were complaints of the centres’ operation when he was the director-general of Welfare Development Department but documentation investigation did not implicate any officials of wrongdoings.

He admitted that he felt uncomfortable to be the target of the investigation, but, anyhow, would be cooperative with the probe team.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (ThaiPBS)

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