Stop the welfare spending leaks

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Stop the welfare spending leaks

The welfare budget is leaking due to poor management. Several thousand people are claiming welfare benefits in the name of deceased persons, and those who can afford to own a car and take overseas trips are picking up social benefit checks. The government, on one hand, is in a row over tax increases to raise funds to finance more welfare spending, and on the other, is disastrously wasting hard-won tax funds due to welfare program mismanagement. What is the use of raising funds if they are poorly spent?

A recent report by the Board of Audit and Inspection underscores how poorly the welfare budget has been managed. As much as 63.9 billion won ($57.1 million) has been paid to 320,000 people who were dead. Because of typing mistakes by bureaucrats related to age and disability classification, about 53.8 billion won was wrongfully routed to a group of more than 30,000 individuals. An additional 170 billion won was wasted because government offices did not share related data. Over the past three years, as much as 700 billion won in welfare budget money has been misspent. And that might be just the tip of the iceberg.

Welfare budget leaks are nothing new. Since her campaign days, President Park Geun-hye has promised to plug the long-standing leaks. The government spent 100 billion won on a computer network for social and welfare benefit programs in 2010. But so far, it has not been so productive. In community centers, one civil servant has to deal with piles of paperwork and distribute money to hundreds of thousands of town residents. The network hardly helps when public officials cannot find time to make visits and update their materials and files.

Korea’s welfare spending now exceeds 100 trillion won. The more money, the bigger the loopholes will be. Raising more funds is as important as wisely spending what is already in the coffers. It is outrageous that our precious tax payments fall into wrongful hands and even go to dead people. Who would be willing to pay more after learning how poorly their taxes have been spent?

The government should first reinforce manpower on civil service windows serving welfare-related work and update the computer network for social benefit programs. If the existing funds are more wisely spent, the government may be able to hold the line on some new spending.

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