Vietnam provides clues for corruption fight in socialist countries

By Thaveeporn Vasavakul Source:Global Times Published: 2012-7-22 21:25:00

Asian Beat

The anti-corruption fight has increasingly been treated as having regional and international agendas. Nonetheless, there remain questions as to how anti-corruption may be concretized at national, sector, and local levels.

The experiences of Vietnam with anti-corruption can shed light on this process. Vietnam is a late-developer in the transition from socialism. In 2011, Vietnam ranked 112th on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, similar to Senegal, Egypt, and Algeria. Compared to countries with similar political systems, Vietnam was slightly behind China and Mongolia, but ahead of Laos and Cambodia.

As seen in its 2005 Anti-Corruption Law and the 2009 National Strategy for Preventing and Combating Corruption Towards 2020, Vietnam has developed a comprehensive framework focusing on corruption in the public sector. The Vietnamese government is also committed to international frameworks on anti-corruption.

Multiple corruption risks

In Vietnam, corruption has been, to a large extent, a legacy of central planning whereby the government controlled both the allocation and management of resources and services. Studies indicated a diversity of risks and forms of corruption springing from state management and public service delivery functions.

In the area of state management, key corruption-risk areas stemmed from the use and management of investment funds. In the delivery of services, corruption was found in relationships between public officials cum service providers and customers where informal payments were made to obtain services.

Vietnam has developed a comprehensive framework to address the increasingly complicated corruption problems specific to the post-central planning era. Overall, Vietnam has adopted good practices drawn from both domestic and international experience.

Specifically, Vietnam's anti-corruption strategy is multi-dimensional and focuses on prevention. Anti-corruption is currently being integrated into study programs in schools and universities.

Good governance measures target aspects of financial measures, transparency, and the linking of anti-corruption with public administration reform. Government agencies at central and local levels are required to develop a code of conduct. Public officials must comply with regulations on asset declaration, gift receiving, rotation of public officials in key positions, and post-retirement employment regulations. The head of each agency is responsible should corruption take place under their management. The existing legal framework outlines agencies responsible for auditing, inspection, investigation, and prosecution work.

Lessons learned

Vietnam's comprehensive framework has the potential to curb corruption if properly executed. There are a number of implementation lessons to be drawn from the Vietnam experience.

The most important implementation lesson is the linking of anti-corruption efforts to other reform processes such as economic restructuring, and public financial reform. For example, measures related to public ethics, in both theory and practice, were closely linked to the reform of human resource management in the public administration system.

An increasingly assertive role of society is undeniably a fundamental prerequisite for fighting corruption. Another important lesson is to concretize national policies and legal frameworks at sub-national and local levels.

These considerations call for a balanced approach to the reduction of corruption in the short term with medium and long-term institutional, organizational and financial mechanisms for reform.

The strategic linking of anti-corruption with other reform programs, the concretization of anti-corruption measures at sub-national and sector levels and the use of a monitoring system have the potential to reinforce a comprehensive anti-corruption framework and support the improved performance and legitimacy of a one-party state.

The author is a Hanoi-based specialist on public administration reform and anti-corruption at Governance Support Facility Initiatives (GoSFI) in Vietnam.

Posted in: Viewpoint, Asian Beat

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