Covid-19 fraud: Hanoi CDC officials inflated test kit prices by $200,000

By Ba Do   April 23, 2020 | 06:33 am PT
Covid-19 fraud: Hanoi CDC officials inflated test kit prices by $200,000
A staff of the Hanoi CDC collects samples from locals in Dong Da District of Hanoi during a mass testing session on March 31, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.
Top officials at Hanoi’s Center for Disease Control fraudulently inflated the purchase price for a new coronavirus test system to three times the actual, investigators allege.

Investigators from the Ministry of Public Security say Nguyen Nhat Cam, director of the Hanoi CDC, and his accomplices had raised the purchase price for a Covid-19 test kit package utilizing the real-time polymerase chain reaction (real-time PCR) system by three times, or VND4.7 billion ($201,166).

"The system was imported into Vietnam for VND2.3 billion but through several intermediaries, it was reported to cost VND7 billion by the Hanoi CDC," said Colonel Nguyen Van Long, head of the Investigation Police Department on Economic, Corruption Crimes and Smuggling, which functions under the Public Security Ministry.

The Hanoi CDC previously suggested buying one more real-time PCR system after the number of Covid-19 suspects requiring to be tested increased sharply in the capital city.

The PCR system is widely considered as the method that can give the most accurate test results for the novel coronavirus. In most cases, initial rapid tests will be double checked using this system.

For now, most real-time PRC machines are produced in Germany and several other European countries, and cost between VND2.5 billion and VND10 billion each, depending on their capacity and configuration.

Cam, the Hanoi CDC director, and six other suspects in the case were arrested Wednesday.

Police said the CDC officials had "conspired to cheat and raise the price of a bidding package for the real-time PCR system."

Cam is under investigation along with Nguyen Vu Ha Thanh, head of the agency’s financial accounting department; Le Xuan Tuan, an employee of the department; Dao The Vinh, director of the Vietnam Scientific and Material Science Company Limited; Nguyen Tran Duy, director of the Nhan Thanh Property Valuation and Auction company; Nguyen Ngoc Nhat, an employee of the Vitech Development Company Limited; and Nguyen Thanh Tuyen, an employee of the Eastern Medical Equipment Company.

They will be probed on charges of violating bidding regulations causing serious consequences, an offence that can fetch jail terms of up to 20 years.

The Hanoi CDC has been in charge of Covid-19 testing for the entire capital city, with 2,500-3,000 samples taken each day.

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