Hanoi's anti-corruption campaign generates crisis in vehicle registration

In January, the arrest of the director of the national agency in charge of vehicle registration created a ripple effect. Half of the registration centers in Ho Chi Min City are now operational, with workers forced to work longer hours and drivers standing in line for days before they can legally drive.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - The anti-corruption campaign implemented by the Vietnamese government has also affected the vehicle registration sector, to the point that local media are talking about a real crisis.

After the arrest of Dang Viet Ha, director of the agency responsible for the registration of cars, trains, ships and other means of transportation, on charges of accepting bribes, more than 500 people were jailed and 59 registration centers out of a total of 281 were closed across the country, causing various inconveniences to the population.

Mile-long lines were created near the registration centers that remained open, with drivers and riders forced to sleep and eat in their cars for days and sometimes weeks.

The current situation is a direct result of events that took place in the past few months: in October, Ho Chi Minh police had stopped a truck and doing routine checks had discovered irregularities in the registration data.

The investigation that followed led to a series of arrests in mid-December, all the way to the top of the national registration center. In Ho Chi Minh City alone, nearly half of the registration centers have been shut down, and while previously the daily inspection capacity was 100 vehicles with 15 workers, it has now risen to 140 with 13 workers. 

Employees complain that their shifts have been extended by 4 hours (for a total of 12 hours a day of work and without having seen an increase in their salaries), with superiors reminding them every day not to accept money or gifts.

They also stated that they did not know whether they violated a rule or not. As a result, inspections have become much more thorough, and now about 35 percent of vehicles fail inspections (as opposed to 15 percent before) to the point that some drivers are forced to return as many as 7 times before they can drive legally.

It does not look like the situation will find a resolution soon: in Ho Chi Minh City 50 thousand vehicles are waiting to be registered by the end of March, a number that is expected to rise to 80 thousand next month.

The city currently has a capacity of about 36 thousand registrations per month. And the government has not yet made it known if and when the registration centers that have been closed will reopen.

According to seasoned journalist Michael Tatarski, "this is just the latest example of how difficult it is to deal with the problem of the corruption system: cleaning up the registration process will hopefully create more transparency (and safer roads?) in the future, but when the entire network is built on corruption, it is bound to collapse when the lubricant that makes it work is removed. And, unfortunately, ordinary people end up being heavily harmed by this."