8 province heads in the dock for faking natural disaster reports

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Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has ordered that the leaders of eight provincial administrations be punished for making false claims about natural disaster damage in 2009 and failure to disburse relief promptly.

The provinces are Ha Giang, Lai Chau, and Thanh Hoa in the northern region, and Nghe An, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, Quang Nam, and Quang Ngai in the central region, which were struck by typhoons in 2009.

Their people's committee chairpersons face action for claiming more victims than there really were and delivering relief late and, in many cases, not to victims, the PM said.

He passed the order Thursday following reports from the Ministry of Finance that listed the wrongdoings.

More than VND115 billion (US$5.53 million) was paid to wrong people or used for purposes other than relief, the reports said.

Only 55 percent of the aid amount sent to the provinces were disbursed by June 2010 even though the amounts were less than what the provinces had sought.

After two massive typhoons, Ketsana and Mirinae, killed at least 267 people in the central region in 2009, Quang Nam, Binh Dinh, and Quang Ngai Provinces reported that 185,916 houses had been damaged, but it was discovered later that the real number was just a tenth 18,718.

Phu Yen had asked for VND450 billion after Mirinae struck in late 2009 but by September 2010 it had failed to disburse the VND170 billion it got.

Lai Chau, which saw deadly landslides due to unrelenting rain and storms in 2009, reported almost six times the actual loss caused by damage to houses of VND951 million ($45,700).

Thanh Hoa asked for VND99.8 billion for river and canal dredging as a drought prevention effort, but it spent only VND12.1 billion.

The PM has ordered all the provinces to return the unused money.

He asked the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to further investigate the responsibility of the province heads and flood and storm prevention officials.

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