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PAPI 2021: under-the-table money exists in red-book granting, healthcare

The 2021 Vietnam Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI 2021) report released on May 10 showed some improvements.

In PAPI 2021, the corruption control index in the public sector is presented in four groups – highest, high average, low average and lowest.

Unlike 10 years ago, the provinces with the highest scores are located in both the north and the south. Dang Hoang Giang, Deputy Director of the Center for Community Development Studies (CECODES), commented that many southern cities and provinces are listed among the localities with the highest scores in corruption control, and called this an “interesting change”.

There is a big gap between the lowest and the higher scores, 5.42 vs 8.15 on the 1-20 scale. Over the last two years, 2020 and 2021, 20 cities and provinces have seen a considerable increase in scores. Binh Duong, Hai Phong, Lang Son and Lam Dong have increases of over 15 percent.

People said the payment of under-the-table money to obtain jobs in the public sector is still common. Relationships with high-ranking officials are important when applying for jobs in five positions of civil servants and public employees in wards/towns (cadastral officers, judicial officers, commune-level policemen, public primary school teachers, office staff of the commune/ward people's committee). This can be seen even in cities/provinces with high scores such as Binh Duong and Thanh Hoa.

Less than 70 percent of polled people in all cities and provinces think the local administration is serious about embezzlement prevention and control. The proportion is less than 50 percent in 30 cities and provinces.

The proportion of people having to pay under-the-table money when applying for land-use right certificates is between 40 percent and 90 percent in over 40 cities/provinces. This exists in poor provinces such as Cao Bang, Dak Lak and Soc Trang.

Meanwhile, 40-80 percent of people in 40 cities/provinces using healthcare services at public hospitals at district level said they have had to pay extra money to get better care. Dong Thap, Hau Giang and HCM City are localities where the proportion is the lowest.

Caitlin Wiesen, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Vietnam, said the findings from PAPI 2021 report are important to help understand the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on public administration effectiveness. This allows local authorities at different levels to prepare scenarios for similar economic and health crises which may occur in the future.

Cherie Russell, the Australian Embassy's Development Counsellor, believes the PAPI report plays a very important role in Vietnam, helping local authorities at different levels to improve decision-making and policy making and provide public services based on reliable data about the public’s experiences.

In the context of Vietnam’s aim to become a high-middle income country and strive to be a high income country, it is important for authorities to understand people’s wishes and improve policies based on people’s feedback.

Speaking at the PAPI report releasing ceremony, Nguyen Huu Dung, Deputy Chair of the Central Committee of the Vietnam Fatherland Front, said PAPI helps promote local authorities’ accountability to people, contributes to the innovation process in the public sector for the benefit of people, in addition to the “People know, people discuss, people do, and people monitor” goal. 

This is also the spirit of the project on drafting a law on implementing democracy at the grassroots level to be discussed at the National Assembly sessions this year.

Like previous years, the 2021 PAPI Report presents detailed answers about the operational effectiveness of provinces in accordance with eight norms (participation of people at grassroots level; publicity and transparency in making decisions in localities; accountability to people; control of embezzlement in the public sector; public administrative procedures; providing of public services; environment administration and electronic administration), and  general indexes.

Thirty cities and provinces have successfully improved effectiveness in public service providing, environmental administration and electronic administration compared with 2020.

Meanwhile, 30 cities and provinces see declines in some fields (participation of people at grassroots level; publicity and transparency in making decisions in localities; accountability to people; and control of embezzlement in the public sector).

Many cities and provinces with the highest scores are in the north, while the localities in Central Highlands, the south of the central region and Mekong Delta have the lowest scores.

Of five centrally run cities, HCM City is among the ones with the lowest scores, which partially shows the heavy impact of the lockdowns during the fourth Covid-19 wave in the city in 2021. 

Tran Thuy


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