Corruption makes for expensive projects
  • By Quang Phong | | March 26, 2014 07:36 AM
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 >>  JTC bribery allegations: three more officials suspended

After the JTC bribery scandal was exposed, economist Pham Chi Lan said that transport construction projects in Vietnam often have inflated price tags as a result of corruption.


Pham Chi Lan

This is not the first time Vietnamese officials have been accused of taking bribes from foreign firms. According to Lan, this will harm the credibility of Vietnamese authorities in the eyes of foreign investors as well as the country's citizens. "Since our management of ODA projects has already shown many shortcomings, I'm not surprised by this allegation. I'm just sad that state agencies don't have the ability to discover this case themselves," she said.

She went on to say that the scale of corruption is likely to increase along with the increase in the scale of projects. Corruption cases in Vietnam continue to appear more severe than in neighbouring countries. Lan then connected the bribery problem with the low quality and high cost of road construction in Vietnam.

She said, "The Minister of Planning and Investment said the projects are three times more expensive than estimations, and the Minister of Transport announced that construction costs are two to three times higher than original estimates. There is simply no other explanation as to why our construction costs are so much higher, and our quality lower, than in US and China. This also exposes a weakness in the system of project planning, bidding, consultancy, supervision and testing."

Speaking on the JTC bribery allegations, which have been widely published in the Japanese media, Lan added that the Ministry of Transport acted quickly and decisively in this case. 

In 2007, officials from the Japanese Pacific Consultants International said that they gave thousands of USD to the director of the East-West Highway project, Huynh Ngoc Si, with the expectation of being awarded the contract. However, Vietnamese authorities did not react quickly to those allegations.

"When we hesitate, we take the risk of creating negative impacts. If I remember correctly, Japan threatened to cut its ODA to Vietnam. But I think that since Vietnam only has an average per capita GDP, we should depend less on ODA and more on our own resources," Lan said.

Addressing the number of corruption cases and cases brought to trial, Lan said that the outcomes, even of prominent cases such as that of Duong Chi Dung from Vinalines, were not really satisfying. Large-scale corruption must necessarily involve many people, yet many times only one individual is held to account, she added.  "It's correct to suspend the four officials in this JTC case, but we need to dig deeper for more connections in order to find the root cause."

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