At least two ministries have recently sought or threatened to seek help from the police to handle issues they themselves should have, raising questions about their capability and need for their very existence.
On July 25 Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien asked the Ministry of Public Security to investigate the deaths of three newborns a week earlier, allegedly caused by hepatitis B vaccines, in the central province of Quang Tri.
The Ministry of Health has failed to say what caused the babies' deaths.
The public, already disappointed with Tien's failure to meet the bereaved families though she was in Quang Tri the day after the deaths, are not amused by her action: they are bothered more about why the babies died and what actions the health ministry will take to guarantee the safety of vaccination programs rather than who will face criminal charges or be jailed.
Only health experts and officials with intimate knowledge about vaccines can answer these questions. Even if the Ministry of Public Security launches an investigation into the case (they have agreed to do it), they will still have to seek help from the health ministry's experts.
In response to the objections to handing over the case to the police, the health ministry said it wants to ensure that the case would be investigated "independently and objectively," and that wrongdoers do not get away.
The explanation does not make the ministry's decision any less incomprehensible. It just makes people wonder if it is true that people in the ministry cover up each other's wrongdoing. Otherwise, why will the minister not be confident of an "independent and objective" investigation by her own ministry?
One hopes the ministry did not do it for other purposes, like misleading people or convincing them that the main responsibility does not lie with it.
The second story is equally odd.
On July 19 the media division of the Ministry of Finance said that a recent press conference held by the ministry had been attended by two people from online news websites without invitations.
It ended up allowing them to attend because of the time and effort they had spent to come, it said, but warned that the next time it would ask the police to intervene.
The two were with cafef.vn run by the Vietnam Communications Corporation and gafin.vn owned by the Global Analysis and Forecast Institute.
It is true that news websites run by non-media organizations or businesses are not allowed to operate like real news outlets and their staff cannot work like reporters.
The ministry's statement was still unpalatable.
If it was not happy about the duo's attendance as it claimed, all it had to do was to expel them, especially since it had issued invitations and uninvited persons could easily have been barred from attending.
Why bother to threaten police intervention?
Of course, it is up to the Ministry of Public Security to decide if it wants to intervene in such things.
But if it is indeed willing to oblige every ministry, the question arises how it will have the time and resources to investigate civilian cases while already having its hands full with crimes like corruption.