Better management of conflicts of interest can strengthen public sector

Wednesday, 2016-11-09 18:27:34
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NDO—Vietnam can improve the public sector’s integrity and efficiency with better management of conflicts of interest, according to a joint report by the Government Inspectorate and the World Bank.

The report says better laws and implementation of policies can tackle the main forms of conflicts of interest, such as gift-taking, nepotism and using insider information for personal gain.

Vietnam’s transition to a market-oriented economy has increased the interaction between the public and private sectors, making government systems more susceptible to conflicts of interest, Tran Thi Lan Huong, a World Bank specialist, said.

The report finds that there is a limited understanding of conflicts of interest both in Vietnamese society generally and among public officials, the majority of whom misunderstood or did not fully understand the definition of a conflict of interest.

A conflict of interest is defined by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development as a conflict between the public duty and private interests of a public official, and it is different from corruption.

But situations where there are conflicts of interest present a high risk of corruption.

The report also finds that various forms of conflicts of interest in the public sector are becoming rules of the games and regulations restricting conflicts of interest are not being properly implemented.

The report identified procurement, licensing and project approval and recruitment as the areas with the most prevalent forms of conflicts of interest, said Dr Nguyen Van Thang, Director of the Asia-Pacific Institute of Management under the National Economics University.

Dr Nguyen Van Thang, Director of the Asia-Pacific Institute of Management

A number of measures recommended include raising awareness of the issue among relevant parties, strengthening conflict of interest controls and assigning an agency or organisation to be a focal point in managing conflicts of interest.

UK Ambassador to Vietnam Giles Lever said managing conflicts of interest effectively would not only help improve the efficiency of public resource allocation, but also strengthen the integrity of and prevent corruption in the public sector.

Deputy Inspector General Nguyen Van Thanh also stated that the report would help the government to keep aware of the issue and minimise the prevalence of conflicts of interest, improve the institutional quality of the public sector and better prevent corruption.

The report was compiled based on surveys that targeted officials, public servants, businesses and citizens in ten provinces and centrally governed cities, as well as five ministries.