Vigilance is requiredPeople who embezzled or otherwise abused government subsidies will face strong criminal punishments. Since June, the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office and National Police Agency have been conducting a joint investigation, uncovering 3,300 people involved in shady operations and arresting 127 of them. The people are accused of stealing or embezzling 170 billion won ($161 million) worth of government money. One bought a luxury sports car on government subsidies from health and welfare programs. Some forged payroll documents to pocket government subsidies for unemployment, and others stole money set aside for poor or unemployed young people.
Government subsidies have grown every year, and this year, 55 trillion won has been appropriated, up from 30 trillion won in 2006. A recent law enforcement investigation underscored that taxes could be wasted and fall into the wrong hands without stringent surveillance and control. As much as 40.5 billion won was frittered away in health and welfare payments that included day care centers. The government has increased its investment in welfare, but its administrative management is lax. Theft and abuse of government money were discovered in other areas - employment, farm and fisheries, research and development, culture, sports and tourism.
To prevent further leaks, the systems of control must be strengthened. The prosecution and police investigation that will end at the end of the year should be extended. Whistle-blowers should be encouraged, rewarded and protected so that people are unaffected at their jobs after they report corruption to law enforcement agencies. Execution of government subsidies should be thoroughly checked. Authorities should be scrupulous from the review stage to execution so that money goes to the right places and people.
Government subsidies will only grow due to an increased need for welfare and higher demand for support in employment, education and regional development. Monitoring systems should be beefed up to fight corruption and accommodate a larger scale of subsidies.