The unexplainable ‘right process’
By Son Nguyen in HCMC
Several ministries and State agencies must have now found themselves walking the tight rope at the witness of a highly-attentive public who are amazed at the appointment of a “would-be economic criminal” to take the helm of the national maritime bureau. Two months since his appointment to the top post there from the previous seat as board chairman of Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines), Duong Chi Dung has taken flight, leaving behind a trail of destruction at the State conglomerate as well as unspeakable embarrassment to Government officials. It is noted that the suspect was given the new seat when Vinalines was being probed.
The scandal, as covered in local media, breaks out when the Government Inspectorate unveils numerous irregularities at Vinalines, including intentional wrongdoings in buying age-old ships and equipments and making investments outside core business operations with a total value of VND23 trillion, or some US$1.1 billion. Such irregularities result in huge losses for the State. Duong Chi Dung, when working with the police days before fleeing, also admitted to deliberate violations in buying a floating deck for ship repair worth nearly VND500 billion, which is now abandoned, says Tuoi Tre.
Police pressed charge against him together with an arrest warrant on May 18, only to realize that the culprit had run away the day earlier.
Such a scandal sends rippling effects throughout the society, with many deputies at the on-going National Assembly session demanding answers from Transport Minister Dinh La Thang over the appointment, with many experts questioning the ministry’s responsibility, and with the general public annoyed at what they call the fishy process behind the appointment.
Some officials have come up to the transport ministry’s defense this week.
Vu Duc Dam, Chairman of the Government Office, asserts in a press conference in Hanoi that the “appointment of Duong Chi Dung conforms to the process, the procedures, and authorization,” says Vietnamnet. Dam explains that there are no regulations forbidding appointment or reshuffle of top executives at an enterprise while it is under investigation.
Other officials at the transport ministry also join Dam’s chorus, defending Minister Thang in the appointment. The transport minister himself, who has remained tightlipped until lately, just emerges to confirm his right decision in the appointment. Minister Thang says in Vietnamnet that all the procedures and process are adhered to, and he will take responsibility if doing it wrong. Thang also says he did not learn of irregularities at Vinalines before.
Vu Trong Kim, general secretary of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Committee, criticizes the doubtful appointment, saying in Dan Tri that “those people in charge of the appointment can by no means say that they do not know what was happening at Vinalines as well as the State group’s leaders.” Kim, also an NA deputy, says “it is unacceptable that they still do it (the appointment) despite knowledge of the problem.”
Tuoi Tre rejects the transport minister’s claim of being unknowledgeable about the irregularities, quoting another NA deputy charging that “the transport ministry leaders cannot say they do not know about serious wrongdoings committed by Dung.” Despite the then investigation, the transport ministry “did not have any exchange of ideas with investigators,” Tuoi Tre quotes the head investigator Hoang Duc Vinh as saying.
Meanwhile, Thanh Nien bluntly says that the transport ministry had information about Dung’s wrongdoings before making the appointment.
Major-general Nguyen Quoc Thuoc, who used to be an NA deputy for several terms, criticizes the transport ministry’s bureaucracy in making the appointment. “Before making the appointment, you must know well about the person to be appointed,” he is quoted in Giao Duc, brushing aside officials’ claim of the right appointment process. Nguyen Dinh Huong, former vice chair of the Party Central Committee’s Organization Commission, is quoted by Giao Duc as saying “the appointment is a mistake and a failure. Undoubtedly, the people in charge of making the appointment must be held responsible.”
Nguyen Minh Thuyet, a professor known as an outspoken NA deputy of the previous term, says he disagrees with ‘the right process’ since “no one can believe that during the whole process of investigation, the transport ministry did not know about wrongdoings at Vinalines and Dung’s responsibility.”
Thuyet says in Nguoi Lao Dong that “the transport ministry’s appointment of a person who could be indicted in a major economic case into the maritime bureau is a huge mistake. The newspaper also backtracks the fishy ladders of advancement Dung has walked on, including his post as board chairman and CEO of Waterways Construction Corp under the transport ministry in 2003-05, when the company incurred total losses of VND412 billion. Despite the poor record, Dung was appointed CEO of Vinalines in 2005, only to cause new losses of VND660 billion.
For those officials defending the appointment, the lifeline is the “right process and right procedures.” However, the big question in local media is that “if the Transport Ministry knows well, it will not make the appointment; however, if it does not know well, why does it make the appointment?” according to Dan Tri.
Thoi bao Kinh te Sai Gon, in a commentary, calls it “the wrong person in a right process.” Tuoi Tre labels the saga a “weird phenomenon, so weird that it is unbelievable for all.” And Nguyen Ba Thanh, Party chief of Danang City, calls it a joke when referring to the drama on the sidelines of the NA sitting.
The Saigon Times Daily