Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI — The Hà Nội People’s Court on Monday commenced a first-instance trial looking into wrongdoings that caused repeated failures of a major pipeline that supplies water to the capital city.
According to the indictment, the Đà River – Hà Nội project, for which the main investor is the State-owned corporation Việt Nam Construction and Import – Export JSC (Vinaconex), began operation in 2009 after five years of construction. The pipeline “supplied significant amounts of water to the capital, contributing to the relief of residents’ water shortage.”
However, from April 2, 2012 to October 10, 2016, the pipeline broke down a total of 18 times. Failures in 23 fibreglass pipes were detected, which cost the water company VNĐ16.6 billion (US$732,000) to repair.
In addition, each rupture incident resulted in the temporary suspension of water supply, for a total of 386 hours and 1.7 million cu.m of water – affecting the lives of 177,000 households in Hà Nội, and attracting widespread public attention.
The assessment in 2015 pointed out that the repeated failures could be blamed on several violations throughout several stages – from the production of the tubes to oversight during installation. The tubes were not of ‘even quality’ as durability in long-term use of several samples failed to meet requirements. In addition, the project’s management board and contractor have not exercised proper quality control during installation, leading to a failure to review, detect and replace the sub-par quality tubes during and after installation.
The Hà Nội Procuracy sought to indict a total of nine defendants for alleged “violations of construction regulations, causing serious consequences” under the Penal Code.
An additional nine ‘persons of interests’ were summoned to court, however, only seven showed up at today’s court. The other two, Phí Thái Bình, former Chairman of Hà Nội People’s Committee and Vũ Đình Chầm, member of Vinaconex management board in 2003-04, cited health reasons for their absence.
A lawyer asked for the suspension of the trial, saying that the non-appearance of two persons of interests would affect the results. The judge panel countered this request, saying that Bình and Chầm have already given and pledged to stand by their testimonies.
The judge panel also denied lawyers’ request to bring in interpreters, additional assessors and several other ‘persons of interest’ to the court, claiming that the content of the translated documents were clear enough and that those involved in the case have already been summoned. During the trial, if necessary, the panel would summon additional defendants.
On these grounds, the judge panel decided that the court would still proceed.
Aside from the nine abovementioned defendants, in 2015, seven Vinaconex board members – including the chairman and 2003-2004 director-general, as well as the head of Vinaconex’s investment department, and the Đà River – Hà Nội project manager were previously summoned by the court. They were involved in the decision to switch from using ductile iron pipes to fibreglass ones without conducting an assessment of the latter’s efficiency, as well as the decision to award an inexperienced fibreglass member company under Vinaconex the contract to produce the materials for the project.
However, in line with the Government’s policies and construction ministry’s regulations, additional assessment in 2016 found that fibreglass materials are totally appropriate materials to use, and the decision-making involved was not sufficient grounds to put them to trial. The court annulled its decision to prosecute these seven people.
The trial is scheduled to last 10 days until March 15. — VNS
The nine defendants in the case are:
Hoàng Thế Trung, 1960, former director of the Đà River – Hà Nội project management board
Nguyễn Văn Khải, 1961, former deputy director of the Đà River – Hà Nội project management board
Trương Trần Hiển, 1957, former head of materials and equipment department, Đà River – Hà Nội project management board
Trần Cao Bằng, 1954, former director of Vinaconex Fibreglass Reinforced Polyester Pipe JSC
Vũ Thanh Hải, 1960, former head of production department and deputy director of Vinaconex Fibreglass Reinforced Polyester Pipe JSC
Đỗ Đình Trì, 1968, former head of the consultant and monitoring team of the Việt Nam Water, Sanitation and Environment Company
Nguyễn Biên Hùng, 1950, former employee of Việt Nam Water, Sanitation and Environment Company
Hoàng Quốc Thống, 1955, former supervisor at the Đà River – Hà Nội project
Bùi Minh Quân, 1972, former supervisor at the Đà River – Hà Nội project