Vietnam's anti-corruption official dismisses official asset disclosures

By Thai Uyen – The Van, Thanh Nien News

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Phi Ngoc Tuyen of the state inspection unit speaks about his lack of confidence in the results of the nation's first asset disclosure campaign during a press briefing on October 23, 2014. Photo: Hoang Trang Phi Ngoc Tuyen of the state inspection unit speaks about his lack of confidence in the results of the nation's first asset disclosure campaign during a press briefing on October 23, 2014. Photo: Hoang Trang

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Vietnam's top anti-corruption investigator dismissed the results of Vietnam's first asset disclosure campaign as “hard to believe” since only one public official out of a million was found to have lied about his or her assets.
Phi Ngoc Tuyen, deputy head of the Corruption Prevention Department at the Government Inspectorate, criticized the findings during the unit’s regular press briefing on Thursday.
Tuyen said the public panned the results of the inspection when they came out in late 2013.
The investigative report stated that only five out of nearly a million participating public officials had their asset disclosures audited, and only one was declared disingenuous. The only official caught by the massive audit was the now-disgraced director of the state-run lottery company in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang.
“I think the numbers cannot be considered honest,” he said.
A government decree that went into effect in September of 2013 required public officials to file financial disclosure forms in an attempt to uncover corruption.
Full-time government officials, police chiefs, military and security officers, hospital and academic managers, and executives at state-owned firms were forced to submit annual declarations of 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 the practice has been deemed ineffective.
The biggest failure, thus far, involved former Chief Government Inspector Tran Van Truyen, who retired in 2011.
His declaration failed to match media reports that alleged he owned hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and significant stock and property holdings in Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre.
Vietnam’s per capita GDP in 2013 was US$1,911 according to the World Bank.
Although Truyen accused the media of exaggeration, the Communist Party’s Central Inspection Commission pledged to audit his assets last July.
Tran Duc Luong, deputy head of the state inspection unit, said his unit has yet to hear the results of that audit.
Luong said that, during a recent conference, a number of international agencies suggested Vietnam narrow the number of officials who must make such disclosures.
“They advised us to narrow down the list of those who must make the disclosures and publicize the results,” Luong said.
He said one shortcoming of the current system is that each individual asset disclosure can only be reviewed by a given official's boss--an arrangement which yielded a very small number of audits (five).
“If their bosses refuse to act, other agencies have to accept that,” he said.
The unit is expected to finalize a series of major inspections by the end of this year, including an audit of Incombank and the Vietnam Bank for Social Policies.
The inspectors will also reveal the findings of investigations into gold market management at the central bank, resource management at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and the use of funds and assets at PetroVietnam.

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