Investment ministry not to blame for shipping line scandal: minister

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The Ministry of Planning and Investment Wednesday denied responsibility for a major financial scandal at state-owned shipping company Vinalines. 

Economic groups like Vinalines and shipbuilder Vinashin have been allowed to make all investment decisions without seeking any permission from his ministry, Minister Bui Quang Vinh told legislators at a National Assembly meeting in Hanoi.

"As they have been authorized to decide on their own projects, the ministry was not aware of the activities of Vinashin and Vinalines," Vinh said.

The government launched an investigation into Vinalines in May after state inspectors found many wrongdoings at the company during the 2007- 2010 period, including the purchase and inefficient use of old ships.

According to the government, Vinalines had incurred losses of more than VND2.6 trillion (US$124.7 million) last year and VND1.2 trillion in 2010, but the shipper had falsely reported profits over the past few years.

Two executives of Vinalines have been arrested, while Duong Chi Dung, former chairman, is still sought by local police.

Vinh told the National Assembly that he would not say he has completely nothing to do with this case, but his responsibility only involved "overall management" and "it is difficult to pinpoint the specifics."

His comments were criticized by several legislators who said they have been calling for improved oversight of state-owned enterprises since Vinashin almost collapsed two years ago.

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"The minister said under current regulations chairpersons and CEOs of state companies take all decisions without informing anybody. A lot of public resources have been given to the government, and the Ministry of Planning and Investment, which acts as an advisor for the government, is responsible for alloting the resources"¦ so will we keep letting the ministry say it is unaccoutable for all the losses?" Deputy Tran Du Lich from Ho Chi Minh City asked at Wednesday's meeting.

Vinh responded, saying, "it is obviously necessary to change the current mechanism to tighten supervision."

He added that the prime minister is expected to approve new regulations for managing state capital at state-owned enterprises in the next two months.

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