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VietNamNews

Public involvement essential in fight against corruption

Update: December, 10/2012 - 09:13

To mark International Anti-Corruption Day in December, Viet Nam News reporter Minh Thi spoke to experts about their experiences in the fight against corruption.

Tran Duc Luong, Government Inspector Deputy General

The National Assembly recently passed a revised law on anti-corruption. The most notable change was a provision that requires senior State officials to account for their possessions and report major increases.

The Government has also issued a Decree on regulating the implementation of the law on complaints and the law on denunciations. Dialogues and conferences have been organised and plans made to deal with corruption. These were held to encourage people to participate.

The Government sees anti-corruption work as the joint responsibility of society. The role of the Government is very important, but the people also need to be actively involved.

People have been encouraged to raise their voices. One example is that the Chamber of Commerce and Industry has organised a forum for authorities and the business community to build a healthy, transparent, non-corrupt business environment.

We also think highly of the media's role in fighting corruption. It is essential that the mass media continue to disseminate anti-corruption legislation.

There are still limitations in the current legislation, so we need to work to improve it. But while we are discussing revision of the law, we still need to be strengthening enforcement.

Conrad Ferdinand Zellmann, deputy executive officer of Towards Transparency in Viet Nam

Every country is unique; every political system is different from another. But this year, some regional countries have made improvements in the fight against corruption, such as the Philippines.

When President Aquino came to power, high-level arrests were made, a national action plan was produced and whistle blowers protected by law.

Recently, the Vietnamese Government began to realise that corruption was not punished in reality. That is something we need to think more about. The role of citizens is very important. The questions are: Are they encouraged to complain? Are people reporting corruption? Are they protected when they do so? Are they happy with public services?

Corruption undermines people's confidence in the Government. To raise confidence, it is important to make sure that public services are responsive to their needs. Public servants need to be responsive to the complaints.

And then there's the role of the media. The media is a key player when it comes to uncovering corruption. Journalists must be protected when they report corruption and they must also be encouraged to do so.

Ronald MacLean-Abaroa*, former mayor of La Paz, Bolivia

People often think that there are good and bad people. But people behave according to the institutional system. I believe it is the institutional design that produces corruption, rather than the lack of principle of individuals. Corrupt systems can generate corrupt behaviour, not the other way around.

In fighting corruption, we often chase individuals, while keep the system intact. What we need to do is to change the system.

Leadership can help a lot. Effective leadership can change an institution and make it less susceptible to corruption. There's a simple formula for fighting corruption. You need to destroy monopoly and encourage competition. And there must be guidelines on how much discretion public officials can allow.

To raise accountability, those who make decisions must be accountable for them. In Latin America, we tend to have large governments that take care of everything. However, we know we have limited capacity. So we can limit monopoly by outsourcing.

From my own experience, I outsourced all services that could effectively be supplied by the private sector. The private sector can take over a number of services that governments often control. When you shift the responsibility to the private sector, they will charge a fee, but the fee is legally charged, while in the hand of public administration, corruption might occur.

I introduced competition to eliminate monopolistic decision making and I put the citizens in the drivers' seat. It is very hard to make people directly involved, but they can keep a watch on things.

*MacLean-Abaroa was the first democratically elected mayor of La Paz, Bolivia, and was re-elected four times between 1985 and 1991. A founding member of Transparency International, he is on its advisory council and served as the first chairman in Latin America. — VNS

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