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Results of Denmark aid probe awaited

Update: June, 08/2012 - 10:20

HA NOI — An investigation into suspicions of irregularities in three Denmark-financed climate change research projects in Viet Nam is expected to conclude on June 15.

This was agreed among stakeholders, including project managers, representatives of the Danish Embassy, and the Ministry of Science and Technology during a meeting in Ha Noi on Wednesday.

At the meeting, co-ordinators of the projects handed in explanations for what appeared to be irregularities in financial information.

The suspicion of irregularities is based on an audit carried out by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC). It prompted the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to temporarily suspend the projects.

Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Tran Viet Thanh said the Danish side agreed that the audit result was just the initial observation of an independent auditing firm. This cannot be confirmed until checking is completed.

Thanh said: "Viet Nam will not screen any erring institution. Those who have gone astray will be strictly sanctioned."

Nguyen Ngoc Lam, co-ordinator of the project Climate Change and Estuarine Ecosystems in Viet Nam which was cited for having misused US$63,420, said: "There was a huge misunderstanding. The auditors appeared not to have sufficient knowledge of how the financial system works in Viet Nam."

He said: "They [the auditors] were at my institute, Institute of Oceanography (Nha Trang), for three days and we were very co-operative in letting them make copies of all the invoices made over the last three years. However, they compiled their audit procedures without asking us a single question from beginning to end."

"We basically did not have any say until our name was everywhere on the news. It has just caught us by surprise," he said.

The scientist, who had 15 years working with fellow scientists in Denmark, said his institute had sound evidence exonerating it from suspicion.

The Danish Embassy declined to comment on the issue when reached by Viet Nam News yesterday. — VNS

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