Media urges more commitment to improving state companies

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The dismissal of the chairman of power utility Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) was reported by the media as a positive action taken by the government to help improve state-owned corporations.

Across the board, Vietnamese media editorialized that there should be strict measures against all officials involved in the scandal.

"The public is waiting for a review of responsibility of EVN's former chairman Dao Van Hung. With debt and losses of dozens of billions dong during his leadership at EVN, Hung needs to face stricter disciplinary measures than being dismissed from the group and taking a new job at the Ministry of Industry and Trade," Thanh Nien newspaper said Wednesday (February 8).

On February 3, Hung was dismissed from his position for inadequate management skills leading to the weaknesses of the group, especially for losses incurred by its telecom unit EVN Telecom.

In the decision signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Hung will be assigned a new job at the industry ministry. EVN's general director Pham Le Thanh has been named as acting chairman.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, an inspection into EVN salaries conducted by the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs has been completed and its results will be announced soon.

At a press briefing on February 6, deputy minister of industry and trade Nguyen Nam Hai said the ministry's Party unit will consider disciplinary measures against Hung as instructed by PM Dung.

In an editorial on February 8, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper also praised the dismissal and urged stricter supervision over state-owned companies.

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"[Hung's dismissal] showed a change in the government's management style at state-owned corporations after the Vinashin case," it said, referring to the ship-builder that caused losses of more than VND910 billion (US$43 million).

"However, to better manage the government's property, there should be a review to clarify responsibility and lay out measures to be taken against leaders of other corporations if they also cause losses," it said.

Meanwhile, Thanh Nien said that besides Hung, the industry ministry and EVN should clarify the culpability of other people on the board. "The prime minister has ordered a review of responsibility of the staff and individuals for wrongdoings at EVN," it said.

Dan Tri online newspaper also said that it cannot say that Hung is responsible for all the losses at EVN. Also, it cannot say that EVN has wrongly invested in non-core businesses.

EVN has reported an estimated loss of VND3.5 trillion in 2011 ($166.4 million). It posted losses of VND10.16 trillion in 2010.

Under Hung's management, EVN invested VND2.1 trillion in other businesses, including real estate, insurance, stocks and banking. All these investments performed poorly, leading to the transfer of EVN Telecom to Viettel, which is expected to be completed by the end of March.

EVN Telecom posted revenues of nearly VND2.43 trillion (US$115.5 million) in 2011, equal to just 62.7 percent of the annual target.

Thanh, EVN's acting chairman, said EVN Telecom struggled in 2011 amid tough competition that led to a sharp decline in phone service rates. The number of new customers grew very slowly in 2011, up 500,000 from 2010, he said.

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