The Vietnamese Prime Minister has ordered the Ministry of Transportation to discipline the officials responsible for building 37 ODA-funded bridges in the rural south after central inspectors found faulty construction causing several bridges to crack and sink.
The Government Office also said on Thursday that PM Nguyen Tan Dung has asked the construction ministry to build and amend building regulations, construction project costs, and supervision requirements.
He also instructed other competent agencies to compile laws on ODA management of construction, and the finance ministry to verify any financial wrongdoings committed by the project commissioner in the project.
According to the inspectors, the transport ministry’s notorious Project Management Unit No 18 or PMU18, had hired domestic companies to design the 37 bridges in 17 provinces in the Mekong River Delta, however, the task was undertaken by Japanese contractors.
This incurred a waste of over VND1.5 billion.
PMU18 also illegally disbursed VND5.7 billion while commissioning 17 bridges in addition to wrongdoings in selecting contractors, causing costs to rise by VND14.4 billion.
PMU18 achieved notoriety after its director Bui Tien Dung was arrested early last year for gambling millions of dollars on football pools. Subsequent investigations unearthed massive corruption, which saw the transport deputy minister arrested and the minister resigned.
PM Dung demanded the transport ministry explain the matter to him this month.
Fewer bridges, less quality, higher costs
In 2000, the government ratified the project aimed at constructing 38 bridges at a cost of over VND581 billion (US$36.3 million). Though the number of bridges was later reduced by one, costs nevertheless rose to nearly VND590 billion in late 2001.
In May 2004 when the bridges were completed, PMU18 stated the total costs were over VND604 billion.
Despite ever-rising fees, the inspectors said many bridges are now suffering from cracks and sinking, most notably the Xeo Dua and Saintard bridges in Soc Trang province.
The two need to be “taken care of immediately to ensure safety for the people,” the inspectors said.
This is especially alarming after a 90-meter (300-foot) section of a Japanese ODA-funded bridge connecting the delta’s Can Tho City to Vinh Long province collapsed late last month, killing over 50 people.