BEIRUT: Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi said Tuesday that bribery and illegal practices were rampant in a number of National Social Security Fund offices across the country.
His remarks came one day after charges were pressed against people involved in the embezzlement of around LL1 billion from NSSF’s office in Chekka, north Lebanon.
“We have information rather than suspicions about acts of forgery and bribery in National Social Security Fund offices across Lebanon,” Azzi told The Daily Star. “We will reach all those involved,” he added.
Mohammad Karaki, the director general of the NSSF, Monday filed charges with the public prosecutor of north Lebanon against 19 individuals for their alleged involvement in embezzling some LL923 million from the national social services program.
Judge Ali Ibrahim, the financial prosecutor, will summon all the individuals for interviews as part of the investigation.
Others suspected of indirect involvement in the embezzlement scheme were not charged with criminal acts, but were sent to the NSSF disciplinary council.
Azzi said the individuals sent to the disciplinary council may later be referred to the judiciary if it is determined they were more deeply implicated in the plot.
Azzi, a member of the Kataeb Party, said his crackdown on corruption and illegal practices in NSSF offices was part of efforts he began since he came to office in February.
“This is part of the process of reform in the National Social Security Fund and replacing the culture of bribery with the culture of transparency,” Azzi said.
“I was subject to pressure by many political parties in order to prevent me from referring the case to the judiciary. But I did not subjugate,” Azzi said, refusing to name these groups.
He explained that the NSSF, which provides health care to over a million Lebanese, should adhere to high standards and serve the needs of the Lebanese public.
According to Lebanese labor law, all employed Lebanese are entitled to NSSF services.