A full-scale audit should become compulsory for work carried out under public-private partnerships to make sure they are efficient and benefit all stakeholders, lawmakers have told the National Assembly.
A toll station on the National Highway 1A in Trieu Phong District, Quang Tri Province. The highway was a build-operate-transfer project.
At a session on Thursday, deputies and government officials were discussing the Public-Private Partnership law.
NA Standing Committee members said policy makers must assure the public that the projects are of the highest quality, but also ensure they are attractive enough for private investors.
The draft law contains regulations related to project preparation, award of contracts, use of public funds for acquiring land and resettling people, and assessment of project efficiency and feasibility.
PPP projects are usually build-operate-transfer (BOT) and build-transfer (BT) and are often seen in the transport industry. The public has recently questioned the stagnant progress of some PPP projects while concerns have been raised about projects being built in the wrong place, causing conflict between investors, the Government and the people.
When soliciting private investment in PPP projects such as highway toll, the Government is contracted to give the investor a specific period of time to operate the project until they reach the breakeven point.
The nature of a PPP project is that the Government leads and calls private investors to join in, deputy Bui Van Phuong of Ninh Binh Province said.
That makes both State agencies and investors comply with audit regulations, he said.
Since they are public projects, PPP works must be subject to regulations issued by Government audit agencies, deputy Nguyen Ngoc Phuong of Quang Binh Province said.
“Full-scale audit should take place from the early stages when contractors and investors are selected to the final stage when the project is transferred to Government agencies.”
Nguyen Lam Thanh, a lawmaker from Lang Son Province, was unsure if a total audit was needed since PPP projects involve both public and private investment.
Audit agencies should only start working when a project is operational, he said.
Deputy Do Van Sinh of Quang Tri Province said a PPP project is only public if all its assets are transferred to the Government by the private investors, and so it is unreasonable to demand a total audit until then.
“Only State assets should be audited while private assets should be assessed when the final output is released.
“Private investment and assets should be audited by independent companies to secure the benefits of the State, people and investors.”
Deputy Luu Binh Nhuong of Ben Tre Province said: “When a PPP arrangement is signed, private investors should be treated fairly in their partnership with the State.
“State agencies have no right to use their power to pressurise investors. It is a violation of the contract.
“The benefits of investors and the public must be top priorities, and only after that the State’s.”
A sharing policy is needed to support private investors to deal with losses during the implementation of the PPP project and help increase the State budget income if the project proves profitable.
The NA Standing Committee on Thursday said deputies should allow the Government to share the risk with investors when the revenues from the project decline if it is the former’s fault.
The sharing mechanism should be activated if the revenue from the project is 25 per cent above or below the breakeven point, it said.
Another way to safeguard investors is by the Government bearing half the loss if the project is unsuccessful, it said.
Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung said the first solution is safer for both sides since it is hard to know if a PPP project made a profit or loss.
The standing committee also proposed that power plants should be regulated by the Public-Private Partnership Bill.
The bill seeks to attract investment in utilities, social services, infrastructure, information and technology, and socio-economic development. — VNS