Absence of compliance
Muong Thanh Group has become known in the country, not because of the numerous high-class construction projects with its nametag but rather its notorious violations of law and its ignorance of decisions made by authorities. From Hanoi in the north to HCMC in the south, from Nha Trang City in the central region to Buon Ma Thuot City in the Central Highlands, irregularities committed by the group are rampant and beyond the management of local authorities. The group defies the tough stance of local law enforcement agencies, probably knowing that such threats of sanctions are just lip service.
Scores of projects developed by Muong Thanh bear that special hallmark and its violations have made an unprecedented continuum, starting from breach of construction permits to construction without permits, and then challenges to sanctions by authorities. Such violations have been reported in local media for years, and have resurfaced these days. Tuoi Tre sarcastically ponders: “What magic does Muong Thanh wield?” in an editorial this week. There is a good reason for such a question.
The newspaper refers to the latest case of the 20-storey Muong Thanh Buon Ma Thuot Hotel in the heart of Buon Ma Thuot City in Daklak Province that had been constructed since earlier this year without a construction permit as of last Thursday.
Inspectors in a meeting last week with Pham Van Lap, deputy director of the provincial Department of Construction, reported that they demanded the investor to fulfill procedures, all to be ignored. When the construction reached the fourth floor, the inspectors decided to issue a sanction, imposing a fine of VND40 million, and ordered a halt to construction work, only to be ignored again.
The saga finally ended in favor of Muong Thanh, which obtained the construction permit from Daklak authorities last Friday to legalize its project after paying an administrative fine of a mere VND40 million. Lam Tu Toan, director of Daklak’s Department of Construction, asserts in Tuoi Tre: “I have just signed (the construction permit) this noon (last Friday). They have now completed all what is required by law.”
The case of the Muong Thanh Buon Ma Thuot Hotel project is just a typical one these days. In Hanoi, the group’s violations are deemed even graver.
At a meeting with voters this Wednesday, the capital city’s chairman Nguyen Duc Chung admitted to serious violations by Muong Thanh. The Dai Thanh complex built by an affiliate of Muong Thanh has been found to commit numerous irregularities, the news site VnExpress cited chairman Chung as saying. Specifically, the construction permit allows Muong Thanh to develop the project at a height of 25 storeys, but the structures there are up to 35 storeys high. The investor “has developed the project without permission, has broken the height limit, has built structures in off-limit areas such as sites for greenery, and has failed fire-prevention standards,” chairman Chung is quoted as saying in VnExpress.
Such violations are also seen in other projects elsewhere.
In Nha Trang City in Khanh Hoa Province, Muong Thanh has developed a hotel project as high as 48 storeys, far exceeding the height limit for the entire city at 40 storeys, according to Nguoi Lao Dong.
A session of the People’s Council of Khanh Hoa Province this Wednesday was heated up when local authorities were challenged as to why the Muong Thanh Khanh Hoa project could be built as high as 48 storeys as against the limit of 40, and what sanctions would be taken to punish the violator.
According to the newspaper, Khanh Hoa authorities previously ordered the investor to reduce the height to 40 storeys following an instruction from the then Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai, but the investor did not take heed. Therefore, in September, the provincial government issued a decision forcing the investor to halt the project.
Weeks later, the authorities offered leniency to Muong Thanh, ordering it to complete the project from the 40th storey downward, and do extra paperwork for the project. The investor did not comply with the decision, prompting Khanh Hoa Province to revoke the project license. However, the Ministry of Construction’s Inspectorate later intervened, requesting Khanh Hoa authorities to rethink their decision to revoke the license, according to Nguoi Lao Dong.
The recent history of Muong Thanh is tainted with numerous similar violations, including its projects in HCMC, Can Tho and Binh Thuan Province.
Nguyen Van De, director of Khanh Hoa Province’s Department of Construction, laments in Tuoi Tre that Muong Thanh has a notorious tradition of violating construction regulations across the country.
Despite numerous irregularities, despite the failure to comply with the law and other enforcement decisions of authorities, all projects of Muong Thanh have finally been legalized by local governments. Such acts of compromise, says Tuoi Tre, will erode public confidence.
If the rule of law in such cases has become eroded, if the absence of compliance is making the legal corridor porous, apparently it is not only the enterprise to blame; it is also the failure of State management agencies to safeguard the rule of law.