Vietnamese Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang said on Wednesday that he has not been informed that Japan has suspended disbursement of its official development assistance (ODA) to Vietnam, as recently alleged by some newspapers.
“Until now, I have received no reports, documents, or guidance regarding the issue,” Thang told reporters on the sidelines of the National Assembly meeting in Hanoi.
It has been reported that Japan had announced it will only approve new ODA disbursement for Vietnam if the Southeast Asian country completes investigation into the corruption scandal of an ODA-funded railway project.
Last month Vietnamese police arrested six railway officials for their involvement in an alleged bribery case in which the leader of a Japanese consultant firm said it had paid over US$780,000 in kickbacks in exchange for an ODA-funded project order in Vietnam.
The alleged graft was uncovered when Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported in March that Tamio Kakinuma, president of Japan Transportation Consultants, Inc. (JTC), had admitted allegations that the firm paid ¥80 million ($782,640) in bribes in return for an ODA (official development assistance) project order worth ¥4.2 billion ($41,088,600) in Vietnam.
Transport Minister Thang, however, admitted that the JTC case does affect the disbursement of other ODA projects in Vietnam.
He confirmed an announcement from the Japanese side that disbursement for new ODA projects will be approved based on Vietnam’s commitment to investigate and strictly sanction individuals or organizations involved in the JTC bribery case. Vietnam must also build up preventive solutions to avoid similar cases.
“We have arrested those involved, but we will have to wait for the official ruling when they are tried at court as per legal procedures,” he said.
“What’s important is to work out solutions to prevent old corruption from recurring and new corruption from happening.”
The minister also said the Ngoc Hoi – Yen Vien railway project, the ODA project that JTC officials are suspected of having offered bribes to win, remains under construction.
“The Transport Ministry has ordered inspection into all ODA projects of the railway and transport sectors,” he told reporters.
“The inspections will be carefully conducted and their conclusions will be made public once available.”
An official from the Foreign Economic Relations Department under the Ministry of Planning and Investment also confirmed to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Wednesday that Japan has not halted ODA to Vietnam.
“Japan only suspended ODA disbursement for one single project, which was implemented by JTC in the bribery scandal,” he said.
The official underscored that this means disbursement was halted for only one contract package that JTC was in charge of.
The Japanese contractor also takes part in two other ODA projects in Vietnam, and Japan has requested that Vietnam clarify if corruption occurs in these projects.