• The Land Transparency Study used a novel approach of measuring actual provision of information against the requirements of the law by direct observation online and on-site. The study explored the provision of land information in 63 provinces, 126 districts and 321 communes sampled, as well as in websites of all provinces in late 2013 and early 2014.
• An index of accessibility to online mandatory land information and another of on-site mandatory land information at the province level were constructed for all 63 provinces.
• Compared with 2010, there have been gradual improvements in many respects. More information is being made available and it is more accessible. Improvements were found at the province, district, and commune levels, and on the province websites.
• Although these improvements are impressive, actual provision of land-related information still falls short of the legal requirements.
• In essence, the problems with transparency came down to attitude, capacity and leadership at the responsible local government agencies. These factors often feed on each other.
• In many instances, officials simply refused to provide information, requesting approval of leaders, citing information as ‘confidential’, or asking for introduction letters. At the commune level, responsible officials are often unavailable during working hours and documents are not properly archived.
What can be done to improve transparency of land related information?
• The study provides each and every province with a customized report, which is a check list of regulations for land information disclosure, and how the province can improve its performance.
• The study also gathers good land information disclosure practices in a Good Practice Note, so that provinces, districts and communes can learn from each other. For example, Thua Thien Hue has a special portal for land related information, and the Department of Architecture and Planning of Ho Chi Minh City has a special room display for urban planning schemes, maps and models.
• A better framework for transparency by putting the Law on Access to Information in place can improve openness and transparency by institutionalizing the right to information.