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Hanoi’s former vice chairman probed over pipeline project violations

Tuesday, May 23, 2017, 15:45 GMT+7

A former deputy chairman of Hanoi has been investigated for violations during his time in office that could have contributed to the continuous problems surrounding the city’s major water pipeline.

A source close to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper confirmed on Monday that investigators from the Ministry of Public Security had begun legal procedures against Phi Thai Binh, former vice-chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee and chairman of the management board of Vinaconex.

Vinaconex, or Vietnam Construction Import-Export Joint Stock Corporation, was the developer of the pipeline that transports clean water from the Da River Water Plant in the northern province of Hoa Binh to Hanoi.

During Binh’s time in office, multiple ruptures occurred along the pipeline, resulting in supply being cut to many districts of the Vietnamese capital.

In addition to the ex-official, Nguyen Van Tuan, former general director of Vinaconex and five other suspects are also being investigated over their involvement.

According to the case file, the Da River – Hanoi water pipeline project was constructed in 2004 and put into operation in 2009.

From 2012 to 2015, the pipeline broke a total of 14 times, with businesses reliant on the project forced to spend over VND13 billion (US$573,620) on fixing it.

Initial results of the investigation have revealed that leaders of Vinaconex, namely Binh, Tuan and the other suspects, failed to follow construction management regulations in 2004.

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The Da River- Hanoi water pipeline broke for the tenth time on January 15, 2015. Photo: Tuoi Tre

It has been found that they chose an alternative material with which to build the pipeline, using a fiberglass composite without undertaking any evaluation of its efficiency, while also using an incompetent manufacturer to supply the material, resulting in several failures throughout the project’s operation.

An assessment carried out by the Ministry of Construction revealed that the fiberglass did not ensure the level of durability set out in the original design, which was supposed to be 50 years.

The investigation concluded around July 2016, but legal procedures were not initiated immediately as the suspects were said to have been honest in admitting their mistakes, had made good contributions to the construction sector, and were first time violators.

After Tuoi Tre and other local news outlets reported on the case, the Supreme People’s Procuracy ordered further examination.

During a phone interview with Tuoi Tre, Binh claimed that he should not be blamed for the problems.

“This is a long story and I believe what I did was right. I put my heart and soul into the project and had no intention of gaining personal benefits from it,” he said.

“Although the Ministry of Construction revealed the cause of the ruptures, I think there is another reason behind them. I will talk about this when necessary,” he added.

Binh was the chairman of Vinaconex’s board of directors in 2004 until he was appointed vice-chairman of the Hanoi administration in July 2006. He retired in 2011.

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