Better Management of Conflicts of Interest Can Help Vietnam Improve Integrity, Efficiency in Public Sector

November 9, 2016

Hanoi, November 9, 2016 – Vietnam can improve public-sector integrity and efficiency by strengthening laws and policies addressing prevalent forms of conflict of interest, such as gift taking, nepotism and using insider information for personal gain, according to a report conducted jointly by the Government and the World Bank, and supported by the UK Government.

The report, Managing Conflict of Interest in the Public Sector – Law and Practice in Vietnam, says Vietnam has made great progress in socio-economic development over the past three decades. But the transition from central economic planning to a more market-oriented system boosted interactions between the public and private sectors, making it necessary to address the growing likelihood of conflicts of interest by better laws and implementation of policies.

“This study is a first attempt to put conflict–of-interest issues into perspective in Vietnam,” said Deputy Inspector General Nguyễn Văn Thanh. “The ultimate objective of the study is to recommend measures for the government of Vietnam and relevant stakeholders to be aware of and minimize conflict-of-interest situations encountered by public servants in their work, improve the institutional quality of the public sector, and better prevent corruption.”

The report finds limited understanding of conflict of interest in the Vietnamese society, as well as among public officials, and that various forms of conflict of interest in the public sector are becoming rules of the game, which can undermine the effectiveness and integrity in public institutions.   

“Vietnam aspires to become a prosperous country with modern institutions by 2035,” said Ousmane Dione, the World Bank Country Director for Vietnam. “Managing conflict of interest is essential to this aspiration, as it helps determine how state and market institutions, rules and regulations are shaped for the next generation.”

The 144-page report offers a comprehensive examination of the prevalence of conflict of interest in six types of activities in the public sector: public service delivery; recruitment; procurement; licensing and project approval; inspection and auditing; and handling of violations.

It includes a survey of citizens, businesses and government workers that showed an increasing societal demand for more effectiveness, transparency and integrity in public institutions that allocate resources.

The report identifies procurement, licensing and project approval, and recruitment as the areas with most prevalent forms of conflict of interest. It recommends three areas of focus for effectively managing conflict of interest:

  1. Raising awareness and understanding of conflict of interest among public servants, citizens and enterprises.
  2. Improving policy and legislation addressing conflict-of-interest issues. The report recommends that the government adopt a definition of conflict of interest, establish mechanisms for preventing, detecting and handling conflict-of-interest violations within the legal framework for public governance in Vietnam, and broaden the governing scope of such regulations to those with close relationships with public servants. 
  3. Assigning a focal point to manage conflict of interest, who will monitor, support and recommend solutions for conflict-of-interest issues and violations. It also will be important to encourage the oversight of such issues by society, businesses and media.

“Managing conflict of interest effectively will not only help improve the efficiency of public-resource allocation but also strengthen integrity and prevent corruption in the public sector. I hope that Vietnam will give serious consideration to introducing institutional reform measures in this area”, says Giles Lever, UK Ambassador to Vietnam.  

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