Minister of Transport Truong Quang Nghia was frank in exposing the continuing problem of corruption by saying that the officials were distracted by cash-stuffed envelopes while working.
The newly-appointed minister is making his name ever since he vowed to "save and spend the tax money carefully". The vow came after large numbers of complaints about wasteful investments.
Ghenh Bridge, a key bridge on the North-South railway line, collapsed in March after a barge crashed into one of its piles. On April 15, despite Vietnam Railways saying that even though the money had been disbursed to the treasury, they were unable to gain access to bridge to conduct the repairs because of the Hung Kings Festival. As the result the repair work was delayed.
The excuse sounds preposterous as Ghenh Bridge is in the southern province of Dong Nai near Ho Chi Minh City, while the Hung Kings Festival took place in the northern province of Phu Tho, 80km away from Hanoi.
Hearing the weird excuse, Nghia said, "For some reason thoughts of cash-stuffed envelopes comes to mind here. The Ministry of Transport has been carrying out administrative reforms really well. That's why in terms of the Ghenh Bridge case, which is a focus of national attention, can't be delayed."
Nghia's statement seems to summarise the way many officials think, it’s about forcing others to puke out some cash. Such crude words are appropriate for such dirty acts from officials.
Sadly, the 'dirty envelope' has become a normal tool in every day life. Giving envelopes full of cash for any cases, no matter small or big, is normal ‘etiquette’. Money will solve everything. Don't have the cash? It is definitely strange and likely poses a problematic situation. So the envelope, often used to contain emotional letters or informative documents, is now a tool for trades and an object of a robbery done by officials.
Despite the on-going fight against corruption, few people dare to blow the whistle. They are afraid that if the whistle gets blown once, they will be singled out and bullied and done for. The fear deepens since the regulations state that the people who give bribes are as guilty as who receive the bribe. In reality, those soliciting bribes may face more severe punishments than those who accept money. In conclusion, silence is golden because then they still have hope that the business will not be affected.
The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha recently asked General Department of Land Administration to investigate a corruption case. According to the Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index or PAPI Report, 44 percent of people had to give bribes to receive a land use rights certificate last year.
In just a few days, two ministers addressed the envelope syndrome. It's unclear whether the syndrome will get any better but let's hope that it's not getting worse.