Public sector corruption remains serious and complex, especially in finance and banking, land and natural resources management and exploitation, and public investment, a high-ranking government official said Monday.
“Corruption in the public sector remains serious, especially in finance and banking, land management, natural resources exploitation, and public investment,” Huynh Phong Tranh, Chief of the Government Inspectorate, told the National Assembly -- Vietnam's legislature -- in its opening session broadcast nationwide.
"Schemes have grown more sophisticated and difficult to detect because those involved tend to hold high positions and significant power," Tranh said.
Many perpetrators possess a significant understanding of the law, have many relations and connections with each other to create power blocs, he said.
According to a government report sent to lawmakers at the session, investigators have dealt with 415 graft cases, involving 1,031 defendants, so far this year.
A total of 751 defendants were prosecuted for embezzlement in 329 cases this year, an increase of 20 cases from a year earlier, the report said.
Out of them, 675 defendants have been convicted at 287 trials -- 41 percent of those defendants were found to have committed “serious,” “very serious” and “extremely serious” violations, it said.
The report also admitted that a decree requiring government officials to submit financial disclosure forms has not been working.
The decree affected full-time central and provincial lawmakers (and candidates), district and commune officials above a certain level, commune-level police chiefs, military and security officers, hospital and academic managers, and executives at state-owned firms.
Every year, these individuals must declare their incomes and assets worth more than VND50 million (US$2,400) - including cash, gifts, savings, stocks, and vehicles - held both inside and outside the country.
But of the roughly 944,000 public officials who submitted financial disclosure reports last year, only one was rebuked for making a false declaration, the Government Inspectorate said in another report at a meeting of the parliamentary Justice Commission in September.
Analysts point out that loopholes have rendered Vietnam's financial disclosure laws virtually toothless.
The most glaring pitfall in the process is the government's refusal to make these disclosures available for public review. Instead, each official's finances are submitted for "the approval of the heads of the respective agencies" during an annual review process. The verification process is carried out only when there is a promotion or an appointment of, or a complaint that involves a concerned public official.
Vietnamese government officials often describe themselves as engaged in a no-holds-barred fight against corruption, but the results continue to fall short of expectations.
The country made little headway in the latest corruption rankings by the Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International.
The 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index, which measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption, saw Vietnam advance just seven spots to 116th out of 177 countries and territories with a score of 31/100.
In Southeast Asia, it ranked seventh behind Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia.
In the morning session, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told the full house that Vietnam expects faster economic growth next year of 6.2 per cent, against a targeted 5.8 per cent this year.
Vietnam looks to keep inflation next year at five per cent, compared with a government projection of "below five per cent this year", Dung said.
After growing 5.42 per cent in 2013, Vietnam's economy has been picking up steam this year. The third quarter's annual growth expanded to 6.19 per cent, from 5.42 per cent in the second quarter and 5.09 per cent in the first three months, according to government data.
The consumer price index in September rose 2.25 per cent from December 2013, the slowest year-to-date pace in a decade, Dung said, citing government data.