Fighting corruption in Vietnam: the question is how, not why


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It’s difficult to do a background check of a company based in a foreign country with operations overseas.

It’s difficult to check to see whether a document is falsified or not.

It’s difficult to …

I heard a lot of that from the audience of the workshop on World Bank’s Anti-Corruption Framework & Common Integrity Risks in World Bank-Funded Projects in Hanoi recently. Majority of the participants were project managers and procurement staff from Project Management Units managing World Bank-funded projects.

Presentations from the Bank’s Integrity Unit show that corruption increases costs, reduces quality, delays impacts on poverty, creates public disgrace and even generates social instability.  For a person who often has to look at results of development projects like me, corruption eats into the meager meal of the ethnic minority people in the northern mountainous areas of Vietnam, takes education away from girls in learning age, and lower the quality of hospitals for old people in Mekong river delta.

But how much does corruption cost us every year? According to a World Bank estimate, between $1 trillion and $1.6 trillion are lost globally each year to illegal activities. That’s equivalent to more than three years of meals for all the world’s 1.3 billion poor people who still live on an income of about $1/day.

Are people taking it seriously? Data from the Integrity Unit shows that people are taking action against corruption in the East Asia and Pacific region, especially in Vietnam—which has the highest number of allegations submitted to the Integrity Unit (48). There are different ways of explaining this high number, including that there are better mechanisms and systems in place for people to report corruption, and there may also be more corruption cases in Vietnam than in other places. Regardless of the explanation, the figure shows that more needs to be done.

Almost all of the questions raised at the workshop shows that people understand the need to fight corruption. The question is how and not why. Understanding the different facets of negative practices helps (including fraud, corruption, collusion, coercion, and obstructive practices), but practical solutions are needed as well.

Vietnam is stepping up its fight against corruption. The National Assembly (Parliament) is discussing amendments to the Anti-Corruption Law to make sure the legal system is enhanced. The central committee of the ruling Party met last month and one of the key item on the table was how to ensure the State money wouldn’t go to anyone’s pocket. Project managers in Vietnam understand this very well, since they are often Party members and also high ranking officials in the government system.

The World Bank Group president says that fighting fraud and corruption is a vital responsibility. As a long trusted partner, the World Bank in Vietnam considers governance as a key cross cutting theme in its strategy for the country. So far, the total World Bank’s commitment to Vietnam has been over $15 billion, and people in that conference room do not want a single penny of it to go to unwanted purposes.

To this effort, the Bank has enforced its work on anti-corruption, debarred and made public companies that were involved in sanctionable practices, instituted cross-debarment with other international development organizations, and cooperated with local anti-corruption agencies.

But let us know: do you have solutions to the question of HOW?



January 29, 2013

The thing with corruption in Vietnam is that it is so entrenched in the country.
There are swathes of people out there saying they are fighting corruption, put they are merely paying lip service.
Most of these Project Managers and Procurement Officers you talk about are extremely corrupt. To the point they will not allocate a project to those who pitch for World Bank work unless the Project Manager is paid off etc.
Many people seem to know here that the World Bank is very corrupt. The World Bank needs to look inside its own organisation and fix the rampant corruption within the WB, before it can preach to the rest of the country.

Ngan Hong Nguyen
January 31, 2013

Thank you for your comments. The World Bank takes corruption very seriously in Vietnam, elsewhere in the world and also internally. All allegations of corruptions on the projects the World Bank finances including any allegations against World Bank staff are reviewed carefully and investigated by our Institutional Integrity Department if there is evidence of wrong doing. We want to hear from you as to how we can fight corruption more effectively, and if you have specific information about fraud and corruption including allegations of corruption by World Bank staff, please call our hotline:+1.800.831.0463 inside US or + 1.704.556.7046 outside US or email us at Thank you

Luke Nguyen
February 23, 2013

You can't turn around an entire country so used to corruption in daily life overnight. Start by funding anti-corruption media campaign to highlight how corruption effects the lives of real people. Many in Vietnam are uneducated about how taking small bribes and gifts can adversely affect an already bad economic situation. Highlight it through pictures, stories and examples of just how costly a human toll it inflicts on society. People might not care about a government employee being paid to pick on contractor over another, but they might care how well a bridge is built and whether or not it's of good quality or not; as their lives depends on it standing. Give them a picture of what a normal society with little corruption looks like (I.E. Singapore). There's ample ways, the question you should really be asking is, is the will there to end the practice?

That question is one the Vietnamese people themselves will have to answer.