Vietnam - Corruption
While Vietnam’s anti-corruption law is considered among the best legal frameworks in Asia for anti-corruption, implementation remains problematic. Corruption and administrative red tape within the Government has been a vast challenge for Governmental consistency and productivity and for foreign company doing business in Vietnam. A July 2013 report on global corruption trends finds more than half of Vietnam’s population believed corruption has increased in recent years. In a survey done by Transparency International, 55% of respondents from Vietnam felt an increase in corruption, compared to an average of 48% in Southeast Asia as a whole. Only 18% of the Vietnamese surveyed said that corruption has decreased, while 27% said the level has stayed the same. Additionally, the Global Corruption Barometer (2013) indicates Vietnamese are less confident in their government’s ability to stop corruption than in past years. Out of 13 areas surveyed, law enforcement, health care services, and land ownership were said to be most affected by corruption.
The 2012 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Vietnam 123 out of 176 countries. Corruption in Vietnam is due in large part to a lack of transparency, accountability, and media freedom, as well as low pay for government officials and inadequate systems for holding officials accountable for their actions. Competition among GVN agencies for control over business and investments has created a confused overlapping of jurisdictions and bureaucratic procedures and approvals that in turn create opportunities for corruption.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung declared corruption a top priority, establishing a new anti-corruption agency under his direction. The Deputy Prime Minister was tasked to lead the Government's anti-corruption effort. Following a major corruption scandal within the Ministry of Transport in 2006, involving accusations of embezzlement, bribery and nepotism, action by the authorities led to some high-level resignations and a number of arrests. The Vice Minister of Transport, along with a number of officials were imprisoned, although some – including the Vice-Minister - have been released before completing their sentences.
Vietnam’s 2005 Anti-Corruption Law requires GVN officials to declare their assets and sets strict penalties for those caught engaging in corrupt practices. Implementation and enforcement, however, continues to remain problematic. The GVN signed the United Nation Convention on Anti-Corruption in July 2009.
The Government has tasked various agencies to deal with corruption, including the Steering Committee for Anti-Corruption (led by the Prime Minister), Government Inspectorate, and line ministries and agencies. However, few corruption cases have been detected, investigated and prosecuted.
Vietnam’s 2011 Provincial Competitiveness Index (the latest available), supported by USAID’s VNCI Project in partnership with the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, surveyed 1970 foreign-invested enterprises and 6922 local enterprises regarding the number of firms that had paid informal charges to public officials. According to the Provincial Competitiveness Index (PCI) survey, progress has been made in reducing petty corruption in the form of small payments to public officials at local administrative agencies. While petty corruption has been reduced according to that survey, it appears that corruption by top officials (such as kickbacks on procurement contracts or sweetheart land deals) has increased over time. Fifty-six percent of operations that bid for government projects claimed that paying “commissions” was a common business practice, compared to 41 percent from the previous year.
The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not always implement the law effectively, and officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Corruption continued to be a major problem. The government persisted in efforts to fight corruption, including publicizing central government budgets, streamlining inspection measures, and occasionally widely publicizing cases of officials accused of corruption.
Anticorruption law allows citizens to complain openly about inefficient government, administrative procedures, corruption, and economic policy. However, the government considered public political criticism a crime unless authorities controlled it. It is considered against the law to attempt to organize disaffected citizens to facilitate action, and perpetrators were subject to arrest. Senior government and party leaders continued to travel to many provinces, reportedly to try to resolve citizen complaints. Corruption related to land use was widely publicized in the press, apparently in an officially orchestrated effort to bring pressure on local officials to reduce abuses.
Corruption among police remained a significant problem at all levels, and members of the police sometimes acted with impunity. Internal police oversight structures existed but were subject to political influence.
Foreign-aid donors conducted an annual anticorruption dialogue as part of consultative group meetings with the government. Previous dialogues focused on corruption in the education, health, and construction sectors. In February 2012 CPV members hosted a three-day national conference to discuss strategies to combat corruption and fraud. Approximately 1,000 government delegates, including Politburo members, attended.
According to a six-month report by the government’s Office of the Standing Committee on Anticorruption released in July 2012, state agencies initiated preliminary investigations into 163 cases of corruption-related crimes with a total of 275 suspects. Court authorities prosecuted 183 cases. Authorities brought 116 cases to the court of first instance during the first six months of the year. A majority of the cases continued under investigation.
In mid-2012 CPV members expressed concern at the rising number of corruption cases among government officials and called for a “self-criticism” campaign to fight corruption. In an unusual development, the ensuing self-criticisms by the general secretary, president, prime minister, National Assembly president, and Politburo members were made public in September. On October 22, the prime minister issued a rare public apology for his handling of the economy, including corruption. These events, combined with several high-profile corruption cases during 2012, resulted in public discussion, including on blogs, of the government’s handling of corruption.
In August 2012 police arrested Asia Commercial Bank (ACB) co-founder Nguyen Duc Kien and chief executive Ly Xuan Hai for alleged “intentional wrongdoings that violated state regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences.” One month later, authorities charged four other ACB officials (the former minister of planning and investment and former ACB chair, Tran Xuan Gia, and former vice chairs Le Vu Ky, Trinh Quang, and Pham Trung Cang) with “deliberately acting against state regulations on economic management.” Investigations continued at year’s end.
In March 2012 the Supreme People’s Court of Hai Phong convicted the shipbuilding conglomerate Vinashin’s chief executive officer, Pham Thanh Binh, and eight others--board members Tran Quang Vu and Tran Van Liem, former subsidiary general directors Nguyen Van Tuyen and Nguyen Tuan Duong plus To Nghiem, Trinh Thi Hau, Hoang Gia Hiep, and Do Dinh Con--of “deliberately acting against state regulations” and “economic mismanagement causing serious consequences” by misappropriating approximately VND 900 billion ($43 million) in 2010 from the firm. The court sentenced Binh to 20 years’ imprisonment and the eight subordinates to prison terms ranging from 10 to 19 years. An appellate court in late August 2012 upheld the verdicts.
In September 2012 the Ministry of Public Security announced its work with Interpol to apprehend fugitive Pham Thanh Hai, an accountant in the government’s department of cinematography, whom authorities charged in June 2011 with embezzling VND 42 billion (two million dollars) from the department’s annual budget beginning in 2009. Two of his colleagues (Cinematography Section Chief Lai Van Sinh and Vice Section Chief Le Ngoc Minh) resigned their positions in response to the public outcry over their insufficient oversight.
In July 2012 a court sentenced Pham Thanh Dung, an official of the Can Tho City Department of Justice, to life imprisonment for receiving more than VND 4.1 billion (approximately $195,000) in bribes and abusing his responsibility for drafting and approving marriage registrations for foreigners wishing to marry Vietnamese citizens in 2009-10. In December the Ho Chi Minh City Supreme People’s Court upheld Dung’s original sentence on appeal.
In September 2012 authorities obtained the extradition of Duong Chi Dung, former chairman of the Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines), who had been arrested abroad for alleged financial mismanagement and a loss of VND 1.665 trillion (approximately $80 million) during the 2009-10 period. The case was under investigation at year’s end.
At the end of 2012 an investigation continued in the case of alleged bribe-taking by the former governor of the State Bank of Vietnam, Le Duc Thuy, who retired from his position in May 2011. It was claimed that, for the exchange of an undisclosed amount of money, Thuy helped the Reserve Bank of Australia currency supplier (Securency) to win banknote supply contracts during 2002-09 and that Securency deposited funds for Thuy into an overseas account belonging to a member of the government’s public security bureau, Colonel Luong Ngoc Anh. In 2011 official newspapers reported that Anh had an affair during 2002-06 with a foreign embassy trade officer, helped arrange meetings with high-ranking government officials, and possibly provided classified information.
By decree various government officials must annually report by November 30 the real estate, precious metals, and “valuable papers” they own; money they hold in overseas and domestic bank accounts; and their taxable income. The assets and income of officials’ spouses and children are not included. The government must publicize these declarations only if a government employee is found “unusually wealthy” and investigation or legal proceedings are needed. The decree applies to senior government, judicial, and party officials but does not cover elected officials. Due to a lack of transparency, it was not known how widely the decree was enforced.
The Ministry of Public Security is responsible for investigating corruption charges brought forward by anticorruption offices in the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Office of the Inspectorate General. Additionally, the Office of the Standing Committee on Anticorruption reports directly to the Office of the Prime Minister and has the responsibility to direct, coordinate, inspect, and formulate countrywide anticorruption activities. This committee periodically provides reports on anticorruption activities to the CPV Central Committee, National Assembly, and Office of the State President. It is also responsible for suspending and/or dismissing senior officials appointed by the prime minister who are convicted of corrupt practices.
At a Central Steering Committee on Anti-Corruption (CSCAC) meeting held in Hanoi in December 2013, CPV General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong asserted corruption affected the entire population and stressed the need to continue to combat it. At a January 8 conference in Hanoi, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung highlighted anticorruption as one of the Government Inspectorate’s priorities.
The press widely publicized corruption related to land use, apparently in an officially orchestrated effort to bring pressure on local officials to reduce abuses. Corruption among police remained a significant problem at all levels, and police sometimes acted with impunity. Internal police oversight structures existed but were subject to political influence. Foreign-aid donors conducted an annual anticorruption dialogue as part of consultative group meetings with the government. Previous dialogues focused on corruption in the education, health, and construction sectors.
Although the government considered public political criticism a crime unless authorities controlled it, the amended anticorruption law that took effect in February 2013 allows citizens to complain openly about inefficient government, administrative procedures, corruption, and economic policy. Authorities prohibited attempts to organize disaffected citizens to facilitate action, and perpetrators were subject to arrest.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc asked the people’s public security force to show better and more effective performance in the fight against corruption while attending a conference in Hanoi on 30 December 2020 reviewing the force’s anti-corruption efforts since 2013. Deputy Minister of Public Security Sen. Lt. Gen. Le Quy Vuong reported that the force has closely followed Party and State leaders’ directions, coordinated with all-level authorities and sectors, and capitalised on people’s support to fulfill its tasks in corruption prevention and control.
Since 2013, the force have handled 863 corruption-related denunciations within its jurisdiction and proposed legal action against 292 cases with 409 people involved, he said. Vuong noted that investigation agencies have launched probes into 1,856 corruption cases involving 4,072 people and recovered nearly VND19.5 trillion (US$844.7 million) and over 290,000 sq.m. of land. They have also proposed the prosecution of 1,718 cases with 4,768 people involved. The force has investigated 120 out of 133 major corruption cases, accounting for 91 percent, which were monitored by the Central Steering Committee for Anti-Corruption, he added.
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