|A bus attendant is seen giving money to officials at Miền Đông Bus Station on November 4. — Photo: thanhnien.vn|
HCM City — Nine officials from a public transport operation centre in HCM City were suspended for 15 days after a report published on Thanh Niên (Young people) newspaper on Wednesday claimed they were corrupt.
In an urgent meeting the same day, Bùi Xuân Cường, director of the city’s Department of Transport, decided to open an investigation into the allegations. The result must be reported to leaders of the department by the end of the month.
The nine officials from the Centre for Management and Operation of Public Passenger Transport included Nguyễn Lâm Hải, the centre’s deputy director, and Phạm Vương Bảo, head of the centre’s operation office.
According to an investigation by Thanh Niên reporters, bribery has been happening on a daily basis at major bus terminals in the southern city, including Chợ Lớn Bus Station, Miền Đông Bus Station, and Miền Tây Bus Station.
The report said that before running its first journey each day, every bus must undergo a check by officials of the bus company and officials of the management centre, which is under the Department of Transport. To be allowed to set off, each bus must obtain a paper called "Transportation Order" signed by these officials.
Observations and camera footage recorded by reporters at the terminals in October and November showed that every bus attendant gave VNĐ10,000 (44 US cents) to each official every time they did the procedure.
In one case, witnessed in the early morning of October 25 at Chợ Lớn Bus Station, an official of the management centre was seen receiving money from bus attendants one after another and put all the money on his shirt pocket.
The bribery is said to be either done openly or by putting the banknote in the middle of papers submitted.
Each bus attendant was said to give at least VNĐ30,000 a day in bribes, which was divided among two officials of bus companies and one official of the management centre working at the bus terminals.
Bus attendant N.T.P said the practice had become an implicit “law” for a long time and all buses must do it.
“We would face immediate consequences if we didn’t follow the rule,” she said.
Another bus attendant, N.T.H, said the money was called an incentive for officials. Without it, they could face difficulties from officials.
For example, the officials would point out that buses were not clean, bus attendants wore a wrong pair of sandals or wait until the last minute to issue the “Transportation Order” papers, she said.
She lamented that despite her modest salary, she had to spend VNĐ600,000 (US$26.4) each month for this under-the-table action.
HCM City currently has thousands of buses operating on 150 bus routes.
The total amount of money involved in bribery at bus stations across the city each day is estimated at up to tens of millions of đồng.
In the meeting of the Department of Transport on Wednesday, the department asked the management centre to immediately install cameras on bus terminals of Chợ Lớn, Miền Tây, Miền Đông, An Sương, District 8, and Park 23.9 and finish the work in November.
In another development, Nguyễn Văn Triệu, the director of Transportation Co-operative 19/5 bus company told Thanh Niên that company leaders were unaware of the issue.
The company had temporarily suspended one official for inspection and would punish those involved, he said. — VNS