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COVID-19 test-kit scandal still ‘burning’

With the Party Central Committee’s decision on expelling Hanoi Mayor Chu Ngoc Anh and Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long from the Party, the list of individuals involved in the Viet A test kit case is getting longer.
Former Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long

Since mid-December 2021, the investigation agency under the Ministry of Public Security and the investigation agency under the Ministry of National Defence, and local police have filed charges against 60 individuals and detained them for involvement in the Viet A test skit case.

Analysts note that the case includes high-ranking officials at central and local levels. They are the leaders of local CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), hospitals, Healthcare Department, Ministry of Health (MOH), Ministry of Science and Technology (MST) and Military Medical University.

The noteworthy aspect is that two Party Central Committee members – Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long and Minister of Science and Technology Chu Ngoc Anh of the 2016-2021 tenure - are also involved in the case.

Except for Long, who has been expelled from the Party, MOH has seen a number of its officials being disciplined by the Central Inspection Committee.

The officials include Nguyen Minh Tuan, former Director of the Department of Medical Equipment and Construction Works; and Nguyen Nam Lien, former Deputy Secretary, former Head of the Organization Department of the MOH’s Party Committee, former Secretary of the Party Committee and former Director of the Department of Planning and Finance. 

The investigation agency of the Ministry of Public Security released a decision on filing charges against Tuan and Liem, and detained them in late 2021.

Also, the Central Inspection Committee gave warnings to Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Truong Son and Director of the Central Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology Dang Duc Anh; and reprimanded Deputy Health Minister Do Xuan Tuyen and Chief Inspector of the ministry Nguyen Manh Cuong.

The investigation also arrested Nguyen Huynh, deputy head of the Price Management Department of Drug Administration of Vietnam, who was the secretary for Long.

As for MST, in addition to Chu Ngoc Anh, who has been expelled from the Party for violations when he was Minister of Science and Technology, the Politburo expelled Deputy Minister Pham Cong Tac. On June 6, the Prime Minister released a decision on dismissing Tac.

The Central Inspection Committee has also disciplined a many other officials of the ministry. Trinh Thanh Hung, deputy director of the Department of Science and Technology for Economic Technical Branches, has been expelled from the Party and has been detained since late 2021.

The committee has given warnings to Nguyen Thien Thanh, former director of the Office of State Key Programs; Le Bach Quang, Chair of Advisory Council and the council for acceptance of scientific research and production of biological test kits to detect Covid-19, and reprimanded Nguyen Dinh Hau, director of the Department of Science and Technology for Economic Technical Branches.

Lieutenant General To An Xo, the spokesman of the Ministry of Public Security, provided figures which may give a start to everyone. Viet A’s general director Phan Quoc Viet declared he made a profit of VND4 trillion from test kit sales and gave bribes of VND800 billion to officials to ‘lubricate’ state officials. Viet A used many different methods to transfer money to CDCs’ leaders, including remitting money into their accounts and their relatives’ accounts, and giving cash directly.

The big bribes and the involvement of many state officials explain why Viet A is still a hot topic of discussion on thrift and anti-waste at the ongoing NA session.

According to Tran Quoc Tuan, a National Assembly Deputy from Tra Vinh, the bigger ‘pain’ is that while the entire political system, medical workers and the armed forces are struggling to fight the pandemic and some of them have sacrificed, some cadres and Party members become depraved.

“What is Viet A Company? Why does it have such a big power and influence?” Tuan said.

He said that Covid-19 has been contained, people’s pains and losses have gradually subsided and the most difficult period of the country is over, but the Viet A “pandemic” still exists.

The inclusion of Viet A on the list of cases under the direct control of the Central Steering Committee on Anti-Corruption led by Party Chief Nguyen Phu Trong under the “no forbidden zone and no exclusion” spirit will give answers to the question raised by Tuan.

Thu Hang

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