Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyễn Hồng Trường, spoke to the newspaper Thời báo Kinh tế Việt Nam (Việt Nam Economic Times) about his ministry’s resolve to enforce law and order in the collection of toll fees
What measures will the Ministry of Transport introduce to better control the investments in Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) transport projects?
From now on, the Ministry of Transport (MOT) will carefully consider any BOT project so that road users can choose whether to use the BOT road or not.
In addition, any BOT project development will be subject to control by an authorised agency, and only competent investors will be selected to participate in the bid. Of course, all steps, ranging from the period of road design to cost estimations will have the participation from a state agency right from the beginning.
In addition, the MOT plans to ask the Government to allow the State to share between 15-30 per cent of the estimated cost of a BOT project. If the Government approves that idea, I am confident that such BOT projects will be managed much better. In addition, the National Assembly has recently passed a supervisory programme for BOT projects. Under that programme, the NA Economic Committee and the Provincial People’s Council will jointly supervise all provincial BOT tollbooths.
It has been reported that all BOT projects are placing a large amount of stock in their reserved funds. How do you respond to that information?
Every BOT project must allocate from 12-18 per cent of its investment fund to the reserved fund. That’s why even the smallest BOT project must have at least VNĐ500 billion (US$22.4 million) in its reserved fund, while the largest BOT projects should have up to VNĐ2 trillion ($90 million). However, as the bank’s interest lending rate remains the same throughout the implementation period, the reserved fund is not utilised. That is why the estimated sum available is lower than the actual investment money. Therefore, we can rule out any misused money in the project.
What will happen to BOT projects that have delayed their financial settlement?
We have ordered these BOT projects to stop collecting toll charges.
What about cases where the real cost is lower than the estimated cost in the project document?
We all know that the initial total investment is just an estimated cost of the project. This is a foundation for the project owner to make a plan on how to use the investment money throughout the project implementation period. Of course, every thing in this period is only a projection. The official figure will only be available when the project’s balance sheet is settled.
At present, the MOT is asking all BOT projects to submit their final balance sheets. Based on their balance sheets, we’ll calculate the annual toll fees for each BOT project. The MOT has already ordered 40 tollbooths to reduce their tolls from 10-15 per cent in October.
Does the MOT have any plan to sanction BOT stations that have been charged with fraudulent acts?
I should say the Pháp Vân–Cầu Giẽ BOT station next to Hà Nội, is applying two methods of selling tickets – monthly and daily tickets. To avoid fraudulent acts we have ordered staff working at the booths not to sell the tickets by hand but by computer. In case of heavy congestion, all cars will be allowed to go freely. If the operators fail to do so, they will be fined up to VNĐ100 million ($4,483).
The MOT has assigned the Directorate for Roads of Việt Nam to keep monitoring the toll collection in all BOT projects and handle any problems that occur during the operation of all tollbooths nation-wide.
Does the MOT have any measures in place to sanction BOT projects that deliberately violate the law?
We will adopt three strong measures to enforce law and order in all tollbooths nation-wide.
First, if fraud in toll collection is observed, the project will have to pay back a sum three times as much than the actual money collected.
Second, if the violation is more serious, all people working in the tollbooth will be dismissed.
Finally, the tollbooth can be closed entirely and new measures introduced. - VNS