Vietnam’s health minister, Hanoi mayor ousted from Party over COVID-19 test kit scandal

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Vietnam’s health minister, Hanoi mayor ousted from Party over COVID-19 test kit scandal

A combined photo shows Vietnam’s Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long (L) and Hanoi People’s Committee chairman Chu Ngoc Anh. Photo: Vietnam News Agency

Vietnamese Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long and Hanoi chairman Chu Ngoc Anh were expelled from the Communist Party of Vietnam for their wrongdoings in a COVID-19 test kit scam that was uncovered late last year.

The expulsions were announced by the Party Central Committee at its extraordinary meeting on Monday after considering the nature and level of the violations committed by both officials in the scandal.

The committee also asked relevant agencies to impose further administrative punishments on the two following their Party expulsion, the heaviest Party’s disciplinary action, which was followed by demotion, warning, and reprimand.

These ejections followed a disciplinary request made by the all-powerful Politburo against Long and Anh on Saturday, when Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Pham Cong Tac was also expelled from the Party for his serious mistakes in the same scam.

Later on Monday, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh dismissed Tac from his post for committing “very serious violations on duty.”

Tac, Anh, and Long have degraded the political ideology, morality and lifestyle, while violating the Party’s regulations and the state’s laws, all resulting in severe consequences and heavy losses to the state budget, the Politburo concluded.

Their wrongdoings, the Politburo said, affected COVID-19 prevention and control activities, causing discontent among the public and undermining the prestige of the Party as well as the health ministry and the science and technology ministry, where Anh was the minister in the 2016-20 period.

Following these developments, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee and the Hanoi People’s Council are expected to respectively remove Long from his parliament membership and Anh from his status as a member of the municipal People’s Council within Tuesday.

Earlier in late March, the Inspection Commission of the Party Central Committee concluded that the Party Committees and leaders of the two ministries in the 2016-21 term had shown a lack of responsibility and loose management, resulting in wrongdoings and violations in relation to the inflation of COVID-19 test kit prices by Ho Chi Minh City-based Viet A Technology Corporation, which was uncovered in December last year.

Viet A general director Phan Quoc Viet admitted he had directed his staff to overstate the prices of production equipment and input materials to hike the selling price of a test kit to VND470,000 (US$20.21), or 45 percent more than the original rate, to earn a difference of VND500 billion ($21.5 million).

Viet, who was arrested on December 19 last year, confessed to investigators that he paid ‘commissions,’ in fact illegal kickbacks, worth nearly VND800 billion ($34.42 million) to his state-owned partners who bought his test kits at the inflated prices.

Viet A had supplied test kits to centers for disease control (CDCs) and other medical facilities of 62 provinces and cities, raking in nearly VND4 trillion ($172.1 million), according to preliminary investigation results.

To date, nearly 60 suspects including officials from the two above ministries, directors of CDCs, leaders of hospitals and health departments, and some high-ranking military generals, have been detained or under criminal investigation for their involvement in the case, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

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