Public officials improperly received Daegu grants

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Public officials improperly received Daegu grants

The Daegu city government confirmed Tuesday that about 2.5 billion won ($2.1 million) in emergency coronavirus relief funds meant for lower-income households had been improperly received by some 3,900 public officials.  
 
The Daegu Metropolitan City Government in a briefing said that 3,928 public officials received the emergency aid despite not being eligible for the grant, including 1,800 civil servants, 297 soldiers and 1,577 teachers.    
 
A group of 74 officials working for the Daegu city government were among those who received the funds.  
 
Likewise, there were also 95 people working for public companies or industrial complexes and 126 working for public institutions and investment agencies, all affiliated with the Daegu city government, as well as 23 people working for state-run public organizations.  
 
Daegu was at one time the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak in Korea, following the emergence of a large cluster linked to the Shincheonji religious sect. The city has since contained the virus.  
 
The city government began accepting applications for the emergency grant in early April and began depositing the funds in mid-April. Those eligible included some 440,000 households in Daegu earning less than the median outcome. Depending on the number of people, each household could receive between 500,000 and 900,000 won.  
 
Unlike the government’s emergency disaster relief grants paid out in May, the Daegu city government in order to provide substantive relief to lower-income households exempted public officials as recipients of this emergency aid.  
 
But these public officials nonetheless applied for emergency aid, receiving the grants. Unlike the government-led emergency disaster relief grants which had to be applied for by the head of the household to receive a one-time payment, anyone in the household could apply for the Daegu city relief fund.
 
That allowed a number of public officials to claim that someone in their family applied for the Daegu emergency relief fund without their knowledge, and that the family member hadn’t been aware that the entire household was excluded from eligibility.
 
Local civic organizations have been demanding the Daegu city government recover the grant money and take disciplinary action against the public officials.  
 
The Daegu city government is working towards recovering the grants from the 3,928 public officials.  
 
“Because of problems of respecting personal information, there was no way to check during the process of receiving applications for the emergency relief fund if applicants were public officials, or if their family members were public officials," said Lee Seung-ho, Daegu’s vice mayor for economy.
 
He added that eligibility was determined based on the national health insurance payment amount and that in the process of reviewing the process afterwards, the city government “discovered the misallocation” of the grant.
 
However, a senior Daegu city official said, “The legal opinion is that it will be difficult to take disciplinary action against public officials who were mistakenly granted the funds. The emergency relief fund in itself is not like overtime pay and is money allocated to all people. However, further legal consultations will be made if disciplinary action is possible.”
 
BY SARAH KIM, KIM YOUN-HO   [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
 

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