Vietnam, Japan hold second meeting on ODA scandal

By Bao Van, Thanh Nien News

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Senior officials from Vietnam and Japan met in Hanoi Tuesday, to discuss measures to prevent corruption in ODA-funded projects.

This was the second meeting between the two sides since Japan announced it would temporarily suspend Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding for an urban railway project implicated in a bribery scandal earlier this month.

Officials attending a Japan-Vietnam dialogue on measures to prevent corruption in ODA-funded projects held in Hanoi June 24, 2014. Photo credit: VTC
The scandal emerged in March when Japanese media reported that the national tax agency had flagged 100 million yen (US$100,000) worth of payments that could not be accounted for.

Officials from the Japan Transportation Consultants Inc. (JTC) were suspected of having paid the money to officials in Vietnam and Uzbekistan and Indonesia to secure contracts for ODA projects.

The scandal has seriously affected Japan’s provision of ODA to Vietnam, said Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung during the opening of the meeting.

Japan is Vietnam's largest bilateral ODA donor and has committed over US$20 billion to Vietnam, he noted.

Japan's envoy to Vietnam, Hideo Suzuki, expressed his hope that the two sides would settle the scandal and prevent similar cases from occurring in the near future.

Reporters were barred from the rest of the meeting.

In 2008, a senior Vietnamese official was charged with taking bribes in 2003 from a Tokyo-based company in connection with a major infrastructure project – a highway linking the east and west of Ho Chi Minh City – also funded by Japanese ODA.

Huynh Ngoc Si, former deputy director of the HCMC's Transport Department and head of the project, was sentenced 20 years in prison in 2011. Si was convicted of receiving $262,000 from executives at Pacific Consultants International, or PCI, which was hired as a consultant on the project.

The case rocked the country, prompting Japan, then Vietnam's biggest donor country, to suspend hundreds of millions of dollars in development loans in December 2008. 

Japan resumed the aid a year later.

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