Perfecting institutions to avert corruption

NDO—National Assembly (NA) deputies at the ongoing second session of the Fourteenth NA have taken time to discuss a report on actions by the Government in 2016 to prevent and combat corruption amidst rising concern over the severity and prevalence of crime in a range of sectors due to a lack of effective measures to prevent and gradually reverse corruption.

NA deputies at a debate of the ongoing second session of the Fourteenth NA in Hanoi. (Credit: NDO)
NA deputies at a debate of the ongoing second session of the Fourteenth NA in Hanoi. (Credit: NDO)

NA deputies applauded the Government for candidly acknowledging in its report for the first time that, “A large portion of the officials and civil servants, including those who hold leadership and management positions, and even a number of high-ranking officials, are limited in their self-improvement and do not fulfil their responsibilities and duty to the Party and the people. There are cases of corruption among them and these must be treated in line with the law.”

Recognising the fact mentioned above, the Government also painted a typical “picture” of present-day corruption, which is complex, severe and widespread.

NA deputies pointed out that one of the major limitations of anti-corruption work was that it did not clarify the personal responsibilities of relevant authorities. In reports on anti-corruption work over the years, there was still an aversion to touching those involved in corruption, and only general assessments of the problem were given, without targeting any specific individuals. This made it hard to determine individual responsibility and no strong measures were taken to make changes. Consequently, the determination to fight corruption was only in writing—there was not enough serious action.

They argued that collective and individual responsibility must be clearly defined to avoid the occurrence of irregularities so that no one shall avoid responsibility for his wrongdoing by hiding behind the cloak of collective responsibility. This point, to some extent, was also raised in the discussion on the draft Law on Amending and Supplementing Some Articles of the Penal Code No. 100/2015/QH13.

NA deputies also endorsed the need for additional provisions on distinguishing between criminal and commercial entities, to create a basis for determining the limitations of criminal prosecution or exemptions from criminal liability for collectives, in which case personal responsibility will be clarified.

Regarding this content, delegates stated that imposing liability on the heads of agencies, organisations and units with corruption cases was still being overlooked and was not commensurate with the number of corruption cases brought to trial recently.

In 2016 so far, there have only been eleven heads fined for irresponsibility over acts of corruption, down 35 against the same period in 2015. There are also heads at a number of agencies, organisations and units who have alleged that violations and corruption by their subordinates are not their responsibility. Therefore, there should be stricter and tougher regulations and mechanisms to place responsibility on them if corruption occurs.

Some NA deputies also revealed that recently, there had been several senior officials abusing provisions to manoeuvre and appoint officials who were ineligible and inexperienced, even including their family members, causing suspicion, annoyance and discontent among the public.

Currently, there are many loopholes in provisions ensuring control of persons holding authority in the political system, coupled with the lack of a mechanism to monitor the enforcement of power, leading to the abuse of power for personal gain and factional interests.

Clause 3 in Article 37 of the Law on Anti-Corruption only stipulates that, “The heads and deputy heads must not appoint their spouses, parents, children, brothers and sisters to the position of personnel management, accountant and treasurer in their agencies, organisations and units; or allow the abovementioned subjects to trade materials and goods and sign contracts for their agencies, organisations and units.”

The law does not have regulations prohibiting the heads from appointing their family members to leadership positions in agencies, organisations and units under their management, resulting in a situation in some localities such that several family members are officials in a same unit and the appointments are still “in line with procedure.”

NA deputies also suggested supplementing the Criminal Code to include a definition of the offence of abusing power in staff appointments and recruitment against the regulations and in violation of the law.

Power without strict control would inevitably lead to wrongdoing, which is the root cause of corruption. How to concretise regulations controlling power to prevent corruption and effectively and strictly implement the regulations on power control defined in Clause 3 of Article 2 of the 2013 Constitution is the concern of many NA deputies.

The Government should be responsible for the general inspection, review and explanation of each specific case reflected, on that basis, giving an overall assessment of the situation and proposing solutions to remedy it in the future. These opinions need to be heard and reviewed to ensure that talent is made use of while avoiding officials working together to engage in embezzlement, harassment and abuse of power for their personal interests in making staff appointments.

NA deputies pointed out that a number of measures to prevent corruption were not really effective. Reforms of administrative procedures in some areas were still low in efficiency. Especially in a number of fields, despite the implementation of the “one-stop-shop” model, there still exist “subroutines,” violations of the procedure handling period and a situation where administrative procedure reform is still only specified in writing and has not been implemented in practice yet.

There is also the prevalence of abusing security requirements to conceal information from the public without just cause in a number of agencies, organisations and units, especially among State-owned enterprises, on their personnel organisation, financial situations, budgets and work, negatively influencing the rights of citizens and businesses.

One of the causes of this situation is that the Law on Anti-Corruption has not prescribed sanctions for the absence of transparency in the operation of such units and agencies. The NA deputies proposed that the Government give a specific assessment on the work of openness and transparency in every sector prescribed in the above law in order to take corrective measures.

In 2016, the Government, along with concerned ministries and agencies, has issued a range of legal documents in all fields, creating a stronger legal basis for the enforcement of the Law on Anti-Corruption. Right from the start of their new term, Government leaders have positively and drastically implemented this work. In a short time, the number of documents issued has been quite large, stepping up the quality of anti-corruption. However, there are laws with inconsistent practices and a lack of transparency, while they are slow to be modified and are causing corruption.

In this context, the new-term Government’s affirmation of its determination to perfect institutions to eliminate regulations without transparency, to remove barriers and to free up resources for the country’s development towards the building of a constructive Government with integrity is a correct and strong policy, gaining trust from the NA and voters.

In addition, the Government also wishes for the NA to consider the construction and perfection of legal documents to create a legal framework for the transparency of the Law on Anti-Corruption an important criterion for assessing the degree to which ministers and heads of sectors have completed tasks when the NA carries out votes of confidence.