Top officials of Information Ministry face the music for losses in TV acquisition

Top executives of Vietnam’s Communist Party have handed down an official warning to leaders of the information ministry’s Party unit for a series of violations that had occured at the ministry.

At a meeting on Tuesday, the Party’s Secretariat concluded that the Management Committee of the Ministry of Information and Communications’ Party unit “had not strictly followed Party regulations, violated the democratic centralism principle and working regulations, and had shown irresponsibility in leading, directing, inspecting and supervising the ministry”.

The Management Committee’s violations had enabled the ministry and the state-owned telco giant MobiFone to seriously violate the law and regulations in MobiFone’s deal to acquire private pay TV firm Audio Visual Global JSC (AVG), the Secretariat said.

Headquarters of the Information and Communication Ministry. Photo by CTV. 

Additionally, the committee was found to have enabled the information ministry’s leaders to commit serious to very serious violations in the performance of their duties and failed to timely implement the Government Inspectorate’s recommendations regarding the acquisition deal.

The Secretariat concluded that the committee’s violations are very serious, caused massive losses to State properties, seriously affected MobiFone’s activities and its equitization process, damaged the reputations of the Party, the information ministry and angered the public.

The Management Committee of the information ministry’s Party unit for the term 2011-2016 accordingly received an official warning for the violations. Vietnam’s Communist Party has four modes of punishment for misconduct by official members: reprimand, warning, demotion and expulsion.

MobiFone, the country’s third largest telco, had made headlines since early 2016 when it announced it was breaking into the pay TV market with the acquisition of a 95 percent stake in AVG.

But government inspectors concluded that the deal had violated investment laws and caused an estimated loss of about VND7 trillion ($307 million) to the state.
Early in May, MobiFone told authorities that it had been refunded in full by AVG after the deal between the companies fell through.

The state-run telecommunications giant said that a total of VND8.9 trillion ($390 million), equivalent to a 95 percent stake in AVG, had been returned to the company in April.

Following inspections into the deal, the Central Inspection Committee, the Party’s top watchdog, expelled Pham Dinh Trong, head of the business management department under the information ministry, and Le Nam Tra, former board chairman of MobiFone, from the Party at a meeting last month.
Cao Duy Hai, General Director of MobiFone, the third largest telecom firm in Vietnam, was stripped of all current titles within the Party while Pham Hong Hai, vice minister of information, received an official reprimand at the meeting.

The inspection committee also recommended disciplinary actions against information minister Truong Minh Tuan and his predecessor Nguyen Bac Son, both members of the Management Committee of the ministry’s Party unit.