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Governance and public administration: We are at a standstill


On April 14, the 2015 survey "Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index" (PAPI) conducted by the Vietnam Fatherland Front, Center for Community Support and Development Studies (CECODES) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was released.

Held for the fourth time, PAPI has become a credible tool for policy monitoring, a mechanism for people to “mark” the provincial governments and express their satisfaction with the job of local governments.

PAPI 2014 shows a panorama that is not different in comparison with the starting point four years ago, in 2011.

In the six areas measured: the participation of citizens, transparency, accountability, control of corruption, and provision of public services, the national average score declined in the first field and only slightly increased or remained in the remaining fields. Compared to 2013, the decline was clearer, occurring in five fields, except for provision of public service.

Some worrying matters showed by PAPI four years ago seem to have not been resolved.

Nationally, only 16% of the people knew about land-use planning in their locality, although this has been specified in the Ordinance of Grassroots Democracy, and is one of the most fundamental concerns of the people. This number fell by 20% compared to four years ago.

For half the population, environmental quality is the number one concern. With a quarter of the people, corruption is the most burning issue in society. Food safety and hygiene, drug addiction and traffic accidents are the other issues.

Compared with previous years, petty corruption increased slightly. At least 49% of people said that they had to give a bribe for a job in the public sector and 43% had to give have to bribe at the hospital. At least 33% had to pay black money to get the certificates for land-use rights and 30% had to give money to teachers.

In particular, the majority of people (and almost all in Ha Giang, Dien Bien, Khanh Hoa, Soc Trang) said that the relations with someone in the local government was very important if they wanted to work in government agencies, for example, commune policemen, administrative personnel, or primary teachers.

This is eloquent evidence for the prevalence of the phenomenon of "bribe for positions" from the lowest level of government. Consequently, the administrative apparatus rejects potential candidates who don’t have relations with officials to recruit those of poor qualifications.

Another concern is the inequalities between different groups in society. In the same locality, the poor, the less educated, and minorities tend to assess the quality of public services and other aspects of governance at a lower level. Clearly there is discrimination, and it seems that the citizens who “have power" (through education or income) received a more favorable treatment from the apparatus of government.

Compared with last year, the provinces of Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Vinh Long, Long An, and Ba Ria-Vung Tau still retain their positions in the top group. Vinh Long and Quang Tri made significant progress in scores. In the middle segment, Quang Ngai and Binh Duong also recorded good improvement. Ninh Binh, Ha Nam and Ca Mau were on the weakest team in 2013, but they made significant progress in 2014.

In contrast, Can Tho, Ha Giang, Khanh Hoa, Cao Bang, and Dien Bien are the provinces with the general level of satisfaction of the people declined compared to 2013. Among the five centrally-governed cities (Hanoi, HCM City, Danang, Can Tho and Hai Phong), Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City stood steady in the top group. Hanoi, Hai Phong and Can Tho were in the bottom half of the table and they declined in the scores.

What is special about Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City compared to the three other central cities?

The recent strikes by workers in Ho Chi Minh City to protest the Social Insurance Law, locals protesting the project encroaching Dong Nai River, the project to cut down 6,700 trees in Hanoi, and the Son Doong cable car project have all demonstrated a very basic and important principle of good governance: it is that the government needs to consult the people in the drafting of policies, and provide transparent information in a timely manner to people in the process of policy implementation.

If the principle of "people know, people discuss, people do and people check" is only on paper without actually going into life, people's confidence in the government will be shaken, even the conflict between the two parties will happen, because people will not feel that the local authority is theirs, and we then have to pay for huge economic losses caused by inaccurate decisions, and political losses from the government’s loss of the people’s support.

In this context, the project PAPI, through the voices of 13,500 people across the country on the issues closest to them, is a sustained effort giving the people a supervisory role while giving warnings about the shortcomings to the government for timely adjustments.

More than 30 provinces and cities have disseminated the results of PAPI to the district and even commune level, and set up specific projects to work with the data, in order to improve the quality of government operations and improve the satisfaction of the people. This is an encouraging first step.

However, the result of PAPI in the past four years has not shown clear progress. In a world of increasing competition, we are losing precious years and the people do not want to wait any longer.

Dr. Dang Hoang Giang

CECODES Deputy Director