Fraud crackdown leaves understaffed car registration centers overwhelmed

By Doan Loan, Gia Chinh, Dinh Van   March 2, 2023 | 07:17 am PT
Fraud crackdown leaves understaffed car registration centers overwhelmed
Vehicles wait in front of the 2906V registration center in Hanoi's Thanh Tri District, March 1, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Anh Duy
Kilometer-long lines spilled out of Hanoi and HCMC registration centers Wednesday due to hundreds of arrests for bribery that have led to reduced staffs operating at half capacity.

Some drivers at the front of the line had been waiting in their idling vehicles overnight.

A line of cars over one km long stretched for blocks from the front gate of Vehicle Registration Center 2911D in Hanoi’s Chuong My District. The stoppage reached all the way to National Highway 6.

Nguyen Xuan Hai, 28, from My Duc District, said he had been in line since 7 p.m. the previous night.

"When I arrived, there were already 15 cars before me," said Hai. "As I had some family businesses and couldn't wait for my turn, I gave a food stall owner nearby VND100,000 ($4.22) so they would secure me a spot in the line."

Hai's turn to register his vehicle did not come till 8 a.m. Wednesday morning. In the meantime, while in line, his car’s headlights went out and had to be repaired.

Long lines in front of vehicle registration centers have been a problem since January. While the issue has lessened somewhat over the last month, disruptively long lines persist.

A representative from 2911D said the center is capable of registering around 120 vehicles a day, while the actual number of vehicles now lining up daily is 1.5 times or even 2 times higher than that.

Over the past few days, lines of cars have also clogged streets in front of Vehicle Registration Center 2906V in Thanh Tri District’s Van Dien Town. The vehicles even spilled over onto Road 70, causing an already narrow road to shrink further, with the bottleneck impeding traffic for hours.

Chu Thi Nguyet, from Hoang Mai District, said she had already gone to register her vehicle at two centers in Thanh Tri, but there were so many people ahead of her in line she could not even get a number on the waiting list. Her luck improved slightly when she decided to try the 2906V center, but even there she said she had to wait over 2.5 hours for her turn.

Hoang Trung Liem, deputy director of the 2906V center, said the number of drivers seeking vehicle registrations has been rising since the beginning of the week, hence the elongated lines.

The center can only handle 80-100 cars a day, which is half of its usual capacity, he said.

He said the reason was lack of manpower, thanks to a series of arrests that has swept the vehicle registration industry as part of an investigation into fraud and bribery at centers nationwide. Liem argued that the reduced workforce simply is not enough to handle the growing number of vehicle owners in the northern hub.

At Registration Center 2901V in Lien Ninh Commune, some cars had to wait for 3-4 hours for their turn this week. When the center opens every morning at 7:30 a.m., all 40 spots available in line filled up in just a few minutes. Dozens of cars arriving later were then turned away and directed to other centers instead.

Nguyen Xuan Truong, deputy director of the 2901V center, said that as many other centers in Long Bien and Gia Lam Districts have been shut down by police fraud investigators. Vehicles seeking registrations there have then had little choice but to go to Thanh Tri District to complete their paperwork. Similar to other centers, 2901V is currently only handling a maximum of up to 70 vehicles a day, half its usual capacity.

HCMC vehicle registration centers have encountered the same issues. After dozens of staff personnel were arrested for investigations into various violations over the last several weeks, the 50-05V center in District 12’s An Phu Dong Ward had to be closed down. After hiring four new managers to replace some of those lost, the center has only just recently reopened for business.

Due to the personnel shortage, the team of four can now only handle over 50 cars a day. The center’s usual capacity is around 150 cars a day.

Dau Duc Vu, 39, an employee at the center, said he has never worked so hard under so much pressure. He said he now works 10 hours a day without even taking a lunch break.

Bui Hoa An, deputy director of the HCMC Department of Transport, said the southern city is currently home to around 900,000 cars, not to mention others traveling into the city from neighboring provinces. The number of cars requiring registration this month is expected to reach 50,000, before rising to 80,000 in April, he added.

Meanwhile, the city has only10 registration centers left, with each capable of handling up to 1,600 vehicles a day. At this pace, the centers will be overwhelmed in no time, he said.

Since late last year police and officers from the Ministry of Public Security have raided vehicle inspection centers in cities and provinces across Vietnam to look for violations related to certification, technical safety inspection and environmental protection.

Data from the Vietnam Register points out that 59 out of 281 vehicle registration centers throughout the country had been shut down as of Wednesday due to police investigations and "other reasons." 486 vehicle personnel personal have either been detained, or have willingly quit, amid the high profile arrests and investigations.

Dang Viet Ha, director of the Vietnam Register, and his predecessor Tran Ky Hinh were both arrested last month for allegedly taking bribes from registration centers across the country to ignore violations.

Nguyen To An, deputy head of the Vietnam Register, said that the overwhelming of registration centers will lead to sometimes unsafe vehicles remaining on the road without passing evaluations needed to complete registration procedures, a fact that may lead to traffic safety risks.

Cars line up in front of a registration center in Hanoi's Chuong My District, March 1, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Chinh

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