Vietnam’s health minister under arrest over gouged Covid-19 tests
Health minister of Southeast Asian country Vietnam and the mayor of the capital city of Hanoi have been arrested as part of a widespread investigation into huge price gouging of Covid-19 tests, according to the state media.
Nguyen Thanh Long, the Vietnam’s health minister, was dismissed from his ministry and Chu Ngoc Anh, former science minister, was fired as mayor of Hanoi. The news was reported by Tuoi Tre online news outlet on Tuesday. The ministers are currently being investigated for abuse of power, according to the Ministry of Public Security. They have also been expelled from the ruling Communist Party.
Investigation into corruption around Covid-19 testing
An investigation had underlined that due to gross mismanagement in the science and health ministries, ‘Viet A Technology Corporation’ was allowed to aggressively inflate prices for test kits for Coronavirus infection that were supplied to hospitals and health centers across Vietnam.
“Nearly 60 suspects including ministry officials, public health leaders and military generals have been detained or are being investigated for involvement in the price gouging,” according to the Ministry of Public Security.
The report had also noted that the violations and misconduct by the two arrested ministers had adversely impacted the country’s Covid response and were also expensive on the state budget.
The gouged prices
Viet A charged $172 million for supplying Covid-19 test kits in 62 localities across Vietnam. Company’s general director was arrested in December when he allegedly accepted that his company, based in Ho Chi Minh City, had inflated the test kit’s selling price to about $20. This is 45 per cent more than the original, thereby making a profit of $21.5 million. General Director Phan Quoc Viet has allegedly confessed that he paid illegal kickbacks of $34 million to his state-owned partners who purchased the test kits from his company at the inflated prices.