Vietnam's Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong has set up eight special task forces to oversee the handling, investigation and trial of major corruption cases across the country on the eve of a major meeting of senior Party members this week in Hanoi.
The Central Inspection Committee, the Communist Party’s top watchdog, said on its website on Thursday that the task forces would also scrutinize the anti-corruption progress in 20 provinces and report their findings to the Central Steering Committee on Corruption Prevention, which Trong chairs, by October 30.
These inspections are already conducted on a regular basis, but the latest instructions come just as the Central Committee, a powerful group of 200 senior Communist Party members, are convening for a one-week meeting that opens on Friday in Hanoi.
In a similar meeting last October, Trong admitted that immorality is eroding the ruling Communist Party, chipping away at public trust and threatening the very political system. He said further that falling morality and degrading lifestyles among Party members are evident in the corruption, cronyism, bureaucracy, opportunism and individualism that have distanced them from the public and their grievances.
According to Trong, deviation from socialism is one of the dangers of “self-evolution” or “self-transformation” among Party cadres and government officials. This could lead to collaboration with sinister and hostile forces to sabotage the Communist Party, he said at the time.
Last week, the Central Inspection Committee recommended disciplinary action against Dinh La Thang, the chief of the Party unit in Ho Chi Minh City, holding him accountable for a series of “serious” violations several years ago at state-owned oil and gas group PetroVietnam.
The inspectors have accused Thang of serious mismanagement. He served as the group's board chairman from 2009 until 2011 before his political career took off in Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s cabinet as Minister of Transport.
Thang, 57, has been a member of the Politburo, the 19-member decision-making body of the Communist Party, since early 2016. He became Ho Chi Minh City’s Party chief the same year.
In Vietnam, it is unusual for a Politburo member to face sanctions. It is also rare for the Party to publicly announce proposed punitive measures against such a high-ranking official.
Vietnam’s higher echelons have exhibited steadfast determination to crack down on corruption as well as malfeasance and efficiency that have plagued the much-cosseted public sector.
“The Party is clearly concerned about corruption. It is their Achilles heel, and they know it,” Zachary Abuza, a Southeast Asia analyst in Washington, said of recent developments.
“The leadership wants to send a clear message that it is serious about countering corruption, and that even the senior leadership is not above scrutiny,” Abuza said.