Will re-establishing provincial/city steering committees help Vietnam eliminate corruption?

The 21st session of the Central Steering Committee on anti-corruption

Deputy Head Nguyen Thai Hoc of the Central Commission for Internal Affairs of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) at a meeting on May 2 on the project to establish a provincial-level steering committee on anti-corruption, said that the provincial/city Party secretaries when they are the heads of the Steering Committee for anti-corruption will have to be responsible before the party committee and the government on the issue.

According to Mr. Hoc, once the Provincial Steering Committee on anti-corruption has been established, the Central Steering Committee will not replace the fight against corruption at the provincial level but only act as a guiding organization.

Former Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Nguyen Tien Dinh, also at the meeting, said that, after the establishment of such organizations, the Provincial Steering Committees for Anti-Corruption will help fight corruption seamlessly, closely, and uniformly according to the system from central to local.

Journalist Vo Van Tao on May 3 from Nha Trang commented to RFA:

In the past, there were anti-corruption committees in the localities, but it didn’t work. Because the government has great power, corruption is possible. For example, when he/she signed a certain project, and there was a letter denouncing the project as having problems, it was he/she who was the head of the anti-corruption department to solve it… that’s the worst thing about centralization of power. At that time I proposed this, but my proposal was not accepted… Until now, when I see it restored and empowered to the provincial party chiefs, I think it would be wrong because they have too much power.”

According to journalist Vo Van Tao, the secretary is the most powerful person in the province and city so will easily lead to corruption, absolute power will lead to absolute corruption. Therefore, journalist Vo Van Tao thinks this decentralized solution is unreasonable.

What journalist Vo Van Tao worries about is not unfounded when, over time, party leaders in many localities such as Binh Thuan or Khanh Hoa, Binh Duong have committed wrongdoings and corruption which led to their disciplination.

For example, the Secretary of Quang Ngai province, Mr. Le Viet Chu, was disciplined by the Politburo of the Communist Party of Vietnam in 2020 for land-related violations.

Or in 2021, the Central Inspection Commission of the Communist Party of Vietnam proposed to discipline Mr. Tran Van Nam, Secretary of the Binh Duong Provincial Party Committee, for violating the law on land, causing great losses to the state budget.

The latest is in April 2022, the former Party Secretary and the chairman of Binh Thuan province were disciplined for their mistakes in land management.

However, Mr. Nguyen Viet Chuc – former Deputy Chairman of the National Assembly’s Committee for Culture and Education – when answering a state-controlled newspaper, said that the number of officials who are secretaries and former provincial Party committee members, who committed serious violations, were punished. But he also said not the provincial party chiefs have committed wrongdoings.

Two former Party chiefs of Binh Thuan have just been disciplined by the Party (from left to right): Nguyen Manh Hung, Huynh Van Ti

Mr. Vu Minh Tri, before retiring, held the position of Lieutenant Colonel at General Department 2 – Ministry of Defense, when answering RFA on May 3, said:

Vietnam still says that if it wants to build a rule of law state with socialistic orientation. But if it is the rule of law, all activities must follow the law, but according to the enacted law, there is no position of the Anti-Corruption Steering Committee. That may be in the documents of the Party or political organizations. In short, it has no legal value. Meanwhile, anti-corruption including investigation, prosecution, and trial… all take place according to law. As for things like the Anti-Corruption Department, and the Central Commission for Internal Affairs, I don’t think they have any legal validity. While they also stipulate that the Court only works according to the law, not subject to any influence. Where is the opinion of those organizations?

According to Mr. Vu Minh Tri, Committees such as anti-corruption and the Central Commission for Internal Affairs should only exist within the Party to handle matters within the Party. Mr. Tri continued:

But recently, I see that there are such bad agencies, which do not appear to the Party and do not appear to the government, but still have inter-agency meetings including court police and police. … then I find it illegal. Legally is not valid, even judicially wrong. In my opinion, the establishment is their business, but I do not support it at all. In a rule of law, it is enough only for law enforcement agencies, to perform their respective functions and duties, and to comply with the law.”

At the 21st meeting of the Central Steering Commission on anti-corruption on January 20, 2022, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong directed, that it is necessary to focus on building and perfecting the institutions which make corruption impossible.

Mr. Trong said that it is necessary to improve the institution of power control in the areas prone to corruption; asset and income control mechanisms; overcome loopholes and inadequacies in mechanisms related to bidding, auction, land, and public property management… amending and supplementing the Law on Inspection, the Law on Land…

When responding to RFA from Hanoi regarding this issue, Professor Nguyen Dinh Cong commented:

In order to control power, there must be a separation of three powers, but the Communist Party of Vietnam advocates against the separation of powers. Therefore, when they say that they control power, they have to say so, but in fact, there is no way to control power in the way the Party is organized and operates. Because that power is concentrated in the sole leadership of the Party.”

Thoibao.de (Translated)

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