Posted March. 11, 2009 08:37,
A public welfare official in Haenam County, South Jeolla Province, has been caught embezzling more than one billion won (660,000 U.S. dollars) since 2002. She misappropriated livelihood and housing subsidies that were supposed to go to welfare recipients or sent the money to a fictional persons account. The amount of the embezzled welfare payment - 12 billion won (7.92 million dollars) was way too much for a provincial official, but her crime went undetected for a long time.
An audit of provincial governments by the Board of Audit and Inspection and the Seoul city government uncovered other graft cases. An official of Seouls Yongsan ward embezzled 117.7 million won (77,600 dollars) by inflating the number of disabled recipients for 29 months from June 2003. Another official in Asan, South Chungcheong Province, misappropriated 62 million won (40,900 dollars) through fake receipts in August last year. Last month, an official at Seouls Yangcheon ward pocketed 2.6 billion won (1.72 million dollars) by inflating subsidies for the disabled for more than three years from May 2005. These cases show the moral hazard prevalent in the government and the problem of properly distributing the welfare budget.
Though the Yongsan embezzlement scandal was first detected in November 2005, the official covered it up to prevent his boss from being held accountable. The board, the Public Administration and Security Ministry and all provincial governments must find and punish corrupt officials in places left unsupervised for a long time by conducting thorough audits on the welfare delivery system again.
In addition, laws are urgently needed on auditing the public sector to upgrade expertise and increase sovereignty of auditing on the central and provincial governments. Though ministries and provincial governments have audit divisions, they tend to protect their umbrella institutions and are prone to cover up or minimize corruption. Even auditors must answer to the heads of these government bodies. In provincial governments, school and regional affiliations prevent independent inspections.
The internal affairs watchdog must feel regret over not fulfilling its basic responsibility of auditing under the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration because of political issues. A government that allows tax money to flow into the pockets of corrupt officials is not a government for the people.