Vietnam’s Communist Party will step up its fight against corruption this year to weed out violations committed at a local level, according to Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong.
Trong, who also chairs the Central Steering Committee on Anti-Corruption, discussed plans for 2018 and reviewed the progress made in 2017 as the committee convened for its 13th session on Monday.
The committee concluded that its efforts last year had left no “off-limits zones” in the fight against corruption, and had transformed itself into a more effective, professional and responsible organization.
“What we accomplished was very clear and widely supported by the people. The fight against corruption has become a movement that has created a good impression and reinforced public trust,” Trong said.
Throughout the year, new regulations regarding inspections, management and the appointment and transfer of officials were issued to help prevent and tackle violations. The committee also stepped up inspections to detect and deal with violations, helping recover trillions of dong (more than $44 million) for the state budget.
Authorities were also able to speed up major corruption trials and hand down “open, transparent and humane verdicts”. According to Trong, this transparency, with help from the media, has helped show the Party’s determination to fight corruption and gain the support of the people.
In 2018, the committee will focus on finalizing economic management and corruption prevention frameworks, as well as political and legal tools, to fight corruption. Authorities will also try and increase awareness of the law to make the fight against corruption at a local level more effective.
Trong asked authorities to focus on preventing day-to-day corruption and to remove corrupt officials from the system, starting with the departments tasked with fighting corruption.
Authorities will also speed up their investigations into major corruption cases and cases that have attracted public interest, while intensifying inspections and audits in corruption-prone fields.
While 2017 was a successful year in the fight against corruption, Trong stressed that there is much to be done in 2018. Anti-corruption authorities prosecuted 12 cases with 172 suspects, of whom 73 were convicted at trial. In the most serious cases, three death sentences and three life sentences were handed down.
Authorities also managed to complete their investigations into another 16 cases involving 216 suspects.
The committee is planning to try 21 cases this year and open investigations into a further 21 incidents.
Vietnam’s sweeping corruption crackdown spearheaded by Trong has ensnared scores of high-profile officials, especially in the energy and banking sectors.
But unless the day-to-day corruption that exacts a heavy toll on most normal people is rooted out, any so-called anti-graft movement would amount to little more than window dressing, analysts have said.
“Harsh prison sentences and even the death penalty will only have a marginal impact on curbing grand corruption,” Carl Thayer, an Australia-based veteran Vietnam analyst, said. “Resorting to hard sentences is like a medical booster shot, it wears off over time,” he told VnExpress International.
“The masses encounter everyday low-level corruption in their dealings with government officials, traffic police and so on,” Thayer said. “They would like to see this ended as their first priority.”
In Vietnam, the practice of passing money under the table is so common that many insiders do not even consider it bribery, just an inevitable part of getting things done.
In a survey in March, Transparency International ranked Vietnam as the second most corrupt country in Asia after India in terms of bribery. In its Corruption Perception Index 2016, the Berlin-based advocacy group also ranked Vietnam 113th out of 176 countries and territories.
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