Referring to the case of Denmark recently suspending funds to three out of four research programmes in Vietnam, Bui Quang Vinh, minister of Planning and Investment, stressed that any wrongdoings or misuse of ODA will be severely dealt with.
Minister Vinh made this statement when interviewed at a meeting of the National Assembly, with reference to reports that Denmark had uncovered misappropriation of almost US$550,000 worth of funds meant for research projects and had hence withdrawn from the projects.
The decision was announced before the impending regular meeting between Vietnam and other countries due to be held in Quang Tri Province on June 4 and 5.
“We are now working with the Vietnamese government and partner institutions to deal with this serious issue. The initial response from the Vietnamese government has been cooperative,” said the Danish Ambassador to Vietnam, John Nielsen, in a written statement released on Friday (June 1).
The fund cut was imposed following an independent review by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), which uncovered “numerous irregularities,” Denmark’s newspaper The Copenhagen Post reported.
Previously, according to Copenhagen Post, Christian Friis Bach, Denmark's Minister for Development Cooperation said that it is important to crack down on those caught misusing Danish aid funds in order to clearly demonstrate the consequences.
Frauds detected by the audit included use of consultancies for own benefit, overcharge of internal facilities and cash deficit compared to the balance shown on the cash books.
According to a report released by the Danish Department Quality Assurance of Development Assistance, funding for the first three projects will be suspended, until the two sides establish a stricter supervision and management policy.
However, minister Vinh said he had not received any official report from Denmark. “All I know is that these research projects relate to climate change in Vietnam and are under the cooperation of the Danish government and Vietnam’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment.”
“I am sure that those who cheat will be severely treated by law. Wrongdoings in ODA projects must be stopped and punished as those in the past”, the Minister added.
“I am not authorised yet to be able to comment further on the case with reference to the on-going verification”, Vinh said. “The observations need careful evaluation by the two governments and the implementing institutions before final conclusions can be made”.
“Up till now, Vietnam is regarded as one of the few countries that make use of ODA funds effectively. Especially Japan, who is still committed to granting Vietnam considerably ODA though some cases of wrongdoings in ODA projects have been unearthed.”
However, the Minister said that the process of granting funds from sponsoring countries for some projects is still low. He also stressed on the task of upgrading the management of ODA projects on the Vietnamese side, including picking out a contingent of honest and incorruptible cadres.
Denmark government, via the Danish International Development Assistance (DIDA), has provided grant assistance for the implementation of four research projects on climate change in Vietnam.
They include “Impacts of Climate Change on Land Use change in the Red River Delta and its Community Livelihood Change”, granted in 2009; “Assessing the Impact Trends of Climate Change on Physical and Environmental Conditions and Socio-Economic Development in Central Vietnam”, granted in 2008; “Climate Change and Esturine Ecosystems in Vietnam”, granted in 2008; and “Improving rice tolerance of submergence and salinity to cope with climate change in coastal areas of Vietnamese Deltas”, granted in 2009.
The amount of unjustified use of funds could potentially be as much as DKK 3.3 million, or roughly US$550,000.