Deputy Head of the State Inspectorate Vu Pham Quyet Thang talked about the operations of his agency, regarded as the country’s unofficial anti-corruption force, in an interview with Thanh Nien:
It seems that so far the government Inspectorate (GI) has not properly carried out Vietnamese prime minister Phan Van Khai’s orders on corruption surveillance and inspection?
The government has assigned this task to the State Inspectorate. It has its own power and works out measures to crack down on corruption. But this does not mean that fighting graft is only the State Inspectorate’s responsibility. It is also the responsibility of other agencies and ministries. The State Inspectorate is not a professional anti-embezzlement institution; it also has other jobs to do.
In fact, in the past the government once established such an agency, but it was not strong enough. Therefore, I think setting-up a professional anti-corruption organisation is extremely necessary. It would be a big step if a strong institution was formed to facilitate anti-corruption efforts, and it must be done as soon as possible. It is not important whether the government or the National Assembly (NA) administers the agency. But it is important that the agency is effective, and just like some NA deputies said, its staff must be untarnished, strict, and must have a strong sense of justice. It should also be organised in a way to avoid being cumbersome and must have enough power. On behalf of the government, the State Inspectorate recently went to Mexico to sign an international anti-corruption convention. The convention requires its member countries to set up an independent anti-corruption agency.
Why haven’t many people involved in mass embezzlement cases uncovered by the State Inspectorate been arrested?
For example, like the recently discovered misappropriation of billions of dong during the construction of national sports facilities My Dinh National Stadium and the Gia Lam District Sports Centre. According to the criminal law and anti-corruption ordinance, those who embezzle over 500,000 dong will be indicted. Those who signed the inspection decisions in such cases should answer this question. In my opinion, all these cases should be resolved according to the anti-corruption ordinance.
Also, we transfer cases which are not seen as graft but as causing great losses to the juridical agencies for indictment. We only reviewed the economic aspects of such cases as My Dinh Stadium and Gia Lam Sports Centre. Behind the losses is a series of issues, particularly with management and certain people who are responsible. When we conclude that this deputy chief executive or that chief accountant is guilty, we must remember that above them is their company’s management system and company leaders, who must also be held accountable. In my opinion, leaders who let their subordinates get away with wrongdoing are just as guilty as the perpetrators.
Do you think loose and improper rules and regulations are the cause of widespread corruption? Perhaps that’s why embezzlement and fraud in infrastructure construction projects are still common although inspections in the field are carried out every year. For example, an official who was discovered to have embezzled funds was still promoted to chief of the My Dinh Stadium project management board.
The State Inspectorate does not have the power to settle graft cases; it can only propose appropriate action. There are other agencies responsible for solving these cases. I don’t think it’s right to say that punishment in past cases were not severe enough. When we fail to use human resources properly we have to pay the price.
A corrupt official being promoted to chief of the My Dinh Stadium project management board is the fault of the higher-ranking officials and the agency who offered the promotion. It is also the fault of state agencies who are supposed to be watching the operations of government organisations.
What can we learn from past anti-corruption activities?
In my opinion, a professional anti-corruption agency must be able to formulate efficient plans to fight embezzlement. It should also study organised corruption as very rarely does a graft scandal involve only one or two people. I would liken the fight against corruption to the extermination of termites: we must kill the small insects first before finding the queen.
To crack down on corrupt officials, it is necessary to focus on the responsibility of the leaders of corrupt organisations. We cannot criticise and penalise the whole organisation but only the specific individuals committing crimes.
The ones who are guilty of misconduct must be punished, but his or her manager should also be penalized. This is the fair and objective solution of the Party and the government.