|One of two Lexus cars given by a private company to Cà Mau provincial authorities, prompting public concerns and a Government promise to investigate. — Photo dantri.com.vn|
HÀ NỘI — The Government will direct authorities to investigate the controversial gifting of luxury cars by private companies to officials in the southern province of Cà Mau and the coastal city of Đà Nẵng. This was promised by Mai Tiến Dũng, head of the Government Office, at the monthly cabinet meeting held recently.
The Prime Minister has tasked the Ministry of Finance, Government Inspectorate and Ministry of Justice, to look into the matter. The findings will then be made available to the media.
According to media reports, two Lexus GX 460 currently in use by the Cà Mau People's Committee – each costing about VNĐ3 billion (US$131,000) – were given as presents by Công Lý Ltd last March, ostensibly strictly for use in "inspecting and directing climate change response activities."
Deputy Minister of Finance Vũ Thị Mai responded to the media that several Government decisions regulate the giving, receiving, and handing of gifts by State-funded agencies and personnel.
But the provincial People's Committee has argued that the province needs vehicles to "travel on forest and sea-dyke terrains" and it cannot buy them due to budget shortages.
According to a 2010 Government decision, the maximum budget for a public car is around VNĐ1.1 billion ($44,000), and that is for an on-demand car for the Government top leaders, such as the Prime Minister, ministers and leaders of Hà Nội and HCM City. The car budget for work-related trips by provincial and municipal leaders is limited at VNĐ920 million ($40,300), significantly less than the price of the gifted cars.
While the verdict is still out on whether such costly gifts can be justified, the Cà Mau provincial People's Committee has already issued licence plates for the two cars, violating Government regulations. When the media started reporting the story, the plates were promptly removed.
Some media agencies pointed out alleged "preferential treatment" – VNĐ25 billion in loans (about $1.1 million) – by Cà Mau Province to the private company in question, stoking public concerns of a quid pro quo.
Nguyễn Tiến Hải, chairman of the Cà Mau People's Committee, insisted that receiving the two cars was "transparent and in line with existing regulations," and that their ownerships had been transferred to provincial authorities. "The recipient of the vehicles is the provincial administration, rather than any specific individual," Hải said, defending the move.
Đà Nẵng City has also not made any secret of the the fact that it is using eight cars it got as “presents” from private firms, four for use by the People's Committee, four by the municipal Party Committee.
The Đà Nẵng case was cited by Công Lý Ltd Co as affecting its decision to make such expensive donations to the Cà Mau provincial administration. — VNS
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