The story was front-paged by most newspapers when authorities of Thanh Hoa Province on March 30 announced results of an inspection into the fast-tracked promotion of a civil servant. Dubious promotions are not uncommon, with numerous cases discovered by local media lately, but the case in Thanh Hoa can be seen as typical of a troubling process.
The announcement on March 30, however, aroused more questions rather than giving answers as to how a person could have been easily recruited, promoted and then dismissed beyond knowledge of relevant agencies. Mysteries surrounding the case of Tran Vu Quynh Anh remain to be revealed.
As covered by the local media, Tran Vu Quynh Anh graduated from an information technology college in Nghe An Province, and was recruited by Thanh Hoa Province’s Labor Federation between 2008 and 2010. In early 2011, after graduating from Vinh University, she was recruited by the Quality Assurance Center of Thanh Hoa Province’s Department of Construction. In 2012, she was dispatched to the Housing and Real Estate Market Management Division of this department. Between October 2013 and April 2014, she took maternal leave when giving birth to her first child.
One month later, according to Lao Dong newspaper, she was appointed deputy head of the Housing and Real Estate Market Management Division, and six months later, she was named head of the department. While working at the Department of Construction, she was also groomed to become deputy director of this department.
Last September, she submitted a letter of resignation and it was approved by the director of the Department of Construction.
The appointment of a person without professional or academic merit to the leadership of a division under the Department of Construction has stoked a controversy at the time, and “in reality, Anh was not qualified to be recruited as a civil servant, let alone her rapid promotions,” says Lao Dong.
In fact, since weeks ago, several newspapers have raised questions over the process of recruiting and promoting her, and over her huge assets, with some rumors having it that she was the mistress of a top leader of the province, which was soon denied.
In explanations to the media on March 30, Ngo Hoang Ky, Office Manager of Thanh Hoa Province, asserted that the process of recruiting Anh was in line with regulations, but it was wrong when the director of the Department of Construction appointed her as deputy head and then head of the Housing and Real Estate Market Management Division, because at the time, she was not senior enough with regulations requiring that persons appointed to such positions “must have at least three years working in the field… and must have taken a course on State management,” according to Thanh Nien newspaper.
In addition, when Anh submitted a letter to quit her job, the director of the Department of Construction gave approval without consulting the Department of Interior Affairs as regulated. In addition, the department handed over the civil servant files to Anh, and currently has no papers to track her working process at the department.
Regarding the expected probe into her assets, Thanh Hoa authorities said that by the time of inspection, Anh was no longer a civil servant, so it is not feasible to verify her properties. However, the provincial government also admitted that she was not truthful when giving personal details, and failed to properly declare her assets.
As per the results of the inspection, shortcomings and irregularities regarding the appointment of Anh are all directly attributed to the director of the Construction Department as well as the department’s leadership during the 2010-2015 tenure, Vnexpress reports.
Commenting on the case, National Assembly deputy Nguyen Sy Cuong says in Tuoi Tre newspaper that it is full of abnormalities. “Looking at the process from her recruitment to appointments of vice head and then head of the Housing and Real Estate Market Management Division, and then being groomed to become deputy director of the Department of Construction, it is unimaginable,” Cuong remarks.
The NA deputy notes that within just a short length of time, a young woman with a normal education background had risen faster than many other people.
Cuong also ponders why her working files are not kept at the Construction Department, and raises the question whether there is an effort to erase evidence.
Lao Dong, meanwhile, stresses that officials behind the case must be held accountable. “Who have intentionally opened the pathway for Anh’s rising through the ranks?” asks the newspaper.
The paper says that the then director of the Construction Department was Ngo Van Tuan, who is now vice chairman of the provincial government. It says Tuan skipped numerous regulations on standards and qualifications when signing decisions appointing Anh to senior positions.
Also according to the paper, by the end of 2015, the Construction Department was facing a redundancy of civil servants in senior positions, including six deputy heads of divisions. Therefore, the Construction Department with all consulting staff could not have made such mistakes in the appointments.
The media has run an extensive coverage of abnormal appointments in the State machinery in many agencies and localities across the country, as well as at big State-owned corporations. Most recently, Thanh Nien newspaper on March 30 referred to the case of Nguyen Anh Tuan, who is now serving as director of the Southern Institute for Spatial Planning under the Ministry of Construction.
The newspaper reports that Tuan was a driver, and then an official at the Planning Division of the Vietnam Institute of Architecture, Urban and Rural Planning in 2008. He is said to be an acquaintance of the institute leader’s Nguyen Dinh Toan. In 2009, Toan was named Deputy Minister of Construction, and after that, Tuan rose quickly before being promoted to the post of director of the Southern Institute for Spatial Planning in 2014.
Given the vast number of abnormal appointments and promotions, it is time for the Government to tighten controls on all the relevant processes and procedures in the State machinery. Otherwise, cases deemed as fishy will continue to thrive.