With the support of the World Bank, the Government of Vietnam is making strides in addressing fraud and corruption risks in the management of development loans more broadly than before. Thanks to a new strategic action plan that cuts across the national, sectoral, and project levels.
The World Bank’s Governance Global Practice is working with the government of Vietnam to design and implement this new strategic action plan on how to make the management of Official Development Assistance (ODA) loans less liable to fraud and corruption. As a result, a healthy public policy debate around the risks surrounding ODA loans and how best to address them has arisen in Vietnam, as shown by the last session of its National Assembly in 2014.
The ongoing debate around these issues has also served as a good entry point for the implementation of the government’s new action plan and the Bank has leant its support to ensure commitment and collaboration from the highest levels of policy-making.
Beyond helping to broker the right environment for the implementation of the new strategic action plan, the Bank has also agreed to support the government of Vietnam in developing its own set of actionable steps to complement those it had already recommended.
Moreover, the Bank is also agreeing to extend the focus of this initiative beyond Bank-financed projects, to all projects implemented by the government through its Ministries and Agencies.
To that end, the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) and the World Bank jointly delivered the “Strengthening Governance for Accelerated Development in Vietnam” two-day, high-level workshop on January 20, 2015, in Hanoi.
The workshop was attended by nearly 120 delegates including senior government officials, government project management unit staff, senior staff from the World Bank and other development partners (ADB, USAID, UNDP, DFID), and a Filipino delegation led by the Ombudsman attended the workshop.
Stating the seriousness the government attaches to the subject and setting the tone for the workshop, Vice Minister Dung of MPI said “government's commitment to accelerate the growth of its economy through a strong governance framework is demonstrated by a number of reforms carried out including the adoption and amendment of a number of laws such as those on public procurement, bidding and anti-corruption in order to increase transparency, as well as create a competitive environment for all enterprises.”
The workshop provided examples of challenges other countries have faced to improve their public sector project governance, and it made available the tools and strategies that have been used elsewhere to address these challenges. Having data of good quality on the extent and distribution of complaints and allegations made, investigations carried out, and the discovery of fraud and corruption in Bank-funded projects worldwide helped contextualize the case of Vietnam.
For example, seeing the experience Philippines in addressing fraud and corruption helped delineate the importance of fusing national standards with international best practices.
There is growing openness in the Vietnamese Government and with the public around discussing and tackling these issues, with a growing understanding of how doing so will help improve Vietnam’s continued development.
The Open Contracting initiative presented to the government by Ms. Lindsey Marchessault, a consultant for the World Bank, was of particular interest. Discussing the importance of Vietnam’s new public procurement law for improved transparency and project implementation, Mr. Le Van Tang, Director General of the Public Procurement Agency opined that despite trying to “capture some attributes showcased by Open Contracting, [...] we now find it is not as comprehensive and being implemented in a well-structured, consistent and orderly manner as Open Contracting proposes. It will be interesting to see how the OC can be adopted in Vietnam to achieve enhanced transparency”.
Moving forward, a set of actions for better governance and stronger anti-corruption measures are being prepared for the Government’s consideration, and are intended to complement the Bank’s strategic action plan which will be mainstreamed and implemented at the project level.
In addition, a meeting of the Government’s ODA Steering Committee with Vietnam’s main development partners has also resulted in the public endorsement of stronger and more effective actions to prevent fraud and corruption in public projects.