Vietnamese official gives ‘freebie’ amid COVID test kits scandal – Radio Free Asia

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A senior Vietnamese health official has pledged to return a donation donated by a COVID testing company amid a growing corruption scandal that has already trapped several business executives and officials, Vietnamese sources say .

Nguyen Van Sau, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in southern Vietnam’s Binh Phuoc province, said on January 2 that he would return the donation, described as a “gift” from an unnamed value, donated in December by the Viet A Company, which won a bid to supply test kits to the province.

About 90,000 kits were sold in Binh Phuoc for a value of over 40 billion dong (US $ 1.75 million), but were too expensive and did not meet international standards set by the World Health Organization , according to the media.

The Viet A company previously sought WHO approval in an April 2020 announcement, state media said.

“But in fact, the WHO has only given its approval to assess the effectiveness of the kits and has not approved their use,” said Trinh Thanh Hung, deputy director general of the science and technology department of the ministry of Science and Technology. local media reports.

The value of the gift Sau received was not publicly disclosed, but a panel set up by the Binh Phuoc health department will oversee his return, the department said.

On December 31, the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security announced a broadening of the case against the Viet A company and government agencies across the country, with business leaders Phan Quoc Viet and Vu Dinh Hiep and the provincial director of Hai Duong CDC Pham Duy Tien accused of “giving and accepting a bribe worth 27 billion dong”, or about 1.18 million US dollars.

Twelve officials from the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Health were also arrested, and three are now charged with “abuse of their position and rights in the performance of their official duties”. Nine others were charged with “violation of tender rules with serious consequences”.

Sau’s promise to return his gift may have been forced by actions taken by the Public Security Ministry against other officials involved in the case, a health expert from Ho Chi Minh City said, in southern Vietnam, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

“The most important thing will be to see how far they go in this direction, because there are many people involved in the affair, from the central government to provincial and business leaders,” he said. “It should be noted that they are all ‘senior officers’ and not just the base. “

Investigators can only deal with the case within certain limits, as “their goal will be to fight corruption and recover some state assets,” he said.

“I think they won’t use a very heavy hand because they would run the risk of losing their diet.”

Anti-corruption expert Pham Quy Tho said giving and receiving “staggering commissions” has been a topic of discussion in Vietnam for many years, but has never been effectively addressed.

“The question raised by this high-profile case is how companies can operate in a one-party regime environment where the morals of government officials have deteriorated,” he said.

“Will the Central Steering Committee be able to push for institutional reform before it all gets worse, or will it just continue to ‘step into the fight’ to deal with the consequences?”

Reported by the Vietnamese service of RFA. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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