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Confidence drops in anti-corruption fight

Update: September, 19/2013 - 08:00
Chairman of the NA Committee for Justice Nguyen Van Hien said the situation had become increasingly serious but the punishment for fraud was still not strict or punitive enough.—VNA/VNS Photo

HA NOI (VNS)— National Assembly (NA) deputies yesterday raised concerns over fading confidence in the Government's measures to fight against corruption.

Chairman of the NA Committee for Justice Nguyen Van Hien said the situation had become increasingly serious but the punishment for fraud was still not strict or punitive enough.

The committee found that many defendants in cases involving bribery and graft received only administrative punishment rather than criminal sentences.

According to the report on corruption prevention and control, among 36 officials who were charged with being responsible for corruption, only four received criminal punishment.

Some local authorities still treated officials with indulgence, Hien said at yesterday's meeting of the NA Standing Committee to review the Government's performance in corruption prevention and control.

"Those who had been given suspensions or light sentences accounted for 31.16 per cent of the total number of defendants in corruption cases," Hien added.

He said according to the press and to commonly held opinion, corruption occurred in various areas including vocational training, resettlement support, as well as programmes aimed at poverty reduction and hunger alleviation.

"People voiced concerns that if authorities at the central level did not give stricter punishments to those who bribe or extort, then agencies at lower levels could take this lead and encourage further impunity."

NA deputies agreed that the government bodies should carry out surveys on people's satisfaction on their work in preventing corruption.

In the past eight months, Government auditors have conducted about 4,700 corruption inspections, uncovering 73 cases involving 80 defendants and proposed that nearly VND115 billion (US$5.5 million) needed to be repaid to the State coffers, however not quite half of the sum has been recovered to date, Chief Government Inspector Huynh Phong Tranh said.

Deputies also blamed the inefficiency of corruption prevention activities on a lack of policies designed to support whistle-blowers and the shortage of protection mechanisms for them.

In recent times, there have been 19 whistle-blowers offering information but the rewards given to them were not satisfactory, committee chairman Hien said.

He gave an example of the corruption case in Hoai Duc General Hospital in which three denouncers received awards worth VND320,000 (US$15) each.

Chairman of the Ethnic Council Ksor Phuoc emphasized that there had been situations in which large cases had been "shrunk" deliberately in terms of seriousness so that officials receiving a billion dong might offer lighter sentences.

Progress in dealing with corruption cases must be publicised every three to four months. Central agencies should focus their investigation on places and organisations that have a high risk of corruption, he said.

Since the beginning of the year, police nationwide uncovered and handled 371 corruption cases, involving 847 defendants. Of these, only 223 cases and 568 defendants have been prosecuted.

Phan Trung Ly, chairman of the NA Law Committee, posed the question as to why hundreds of corruption cases were detected this year, yet criminal proceedings were only taken against four.

The crime was becoming more complicated and dangerous, so measures to fight against it must also be more thorough and punishment must be harsher, he stated.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the NA's Standing Committee asked the Government to review its report on anti-corruption activities before submitting it to the NA for consideration in October. The same day, deputies also discussed 2014 auditing plan proposed by the State Audit of Viet Nam (SAV).

SAV's general auditor Nguyen Huu Van said next year the agency would audit 15 central agencies and ministries, 31 infrastructure construction and public procurement projects, 44 State-owned enterprises and financial institutes and one national target programme.

In the afternoon session, the NA Standing Committee discussed the draft amendments to the Law on Notary with recommendations to improve the quality of notary staff.

The deputies expressed concerns over an article regulating that notary staff should take full responsibility for notorising documents translated from foreign languages that contradicts another article that does not require notary staff to know foreign languages.

The deputies also discussed the establishment of a professional organisation for people working in the industry. — VNS

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