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Managing Conflict of Interest in the Public Sector – Law and Practice in Vietnam



As Vietnam aspires to become a prosperous country with modern institutions by 2035, managing conflict of interest is essential because this very process of institutional modernization will determine how state and market institutions, rules and regulations are shaped for the next generation. It is, therefore, imperative that a clearer division between the public and private spheres is set and that conflict of interest (COI) provisions are adopted to enable better separation of these spheres.

This study examines COI in:

Six types of activities in the public sector, including:

  • Public service delivery;
  • Recruitment and appointment;
  • Procurement;
  • Licensing and approval of projects;
  • Inspection and auditing; and
  • Handling of violations.

Four popular forms of COI examined in this study are:

  • Gift-giving/receiving (cash and non-cash gifts);
  • Interest-sharing investment;
  • Using inside information for personal interest;
  • Making decisions in favor of family members.

KEY FINDINGS

Results from the legal review

The legal review shows that Vietnam’s existing legal framework does not yet provide a definition of COI and systematic COI management in the public sector.

Understanding of COI

A majority of survey participants misunderstood or did not fully understand the concept of COI. Participants of group discussions argued most gifts given to public servants represented personal interest, or even bribery. Therefore, genuine cultural values do not support COI situations.

Prevalence of COI

Nearly 70% of witnesses believed the purpose of these gifts were to facilitate the gift-givers’ businesses. Both public servants and enterprises agreed that giving gifts has become a “trend”, “custom”, or even “a rule of the game”. Enterprises give gifts in order to avoid “discrimination”, while public servants give gifts to supervisors to be “nice” to them.

Implementation of COI management measures

The surveys show many existing COI-restricting regulations are not properly implemented. Between 25% and 40% of public servants reported their agencies did not implement COI regulations.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Raising awareness of COI and COI management

It is crucial to communicate and improve understanding of public servants, citizens and enterprises about COI. It is important that public servants are aware of and avoid COI situations while conducting public duties.

Improving policy and legislation on COI management

This set of recommendations includes passing into law several new regulations as well as revising current restrictions on COI in Vietnam: Defining COI and instituting mechanisms for COI management; expanding the governing scope of COI legal regulations; revising regulations on gifts giving and taking; engaging in outside employment and post-employment; and strengthening the management of assets and income.

Strengthening capacity in managing COI situations

For effective management of COI in the public sector, it is essential to assign a focal agency for COI management. The focal agency, in coordination with agencies in charge of public servant management, would organize activities helping raise awareness of COI and COI management as well assessing implementation and providing policy advice to strengthen regulations.