Viet Nam should add conditional terms to public servant contracts, former Deputy Director of the National Assembly Office Tran Quoc Thuan told Dai doan ket (The Great National Unity) newspaper.
Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs conceded that the campaign to improve public servants' performance failed to achieve its goals. In your opinion, what are the main stumbling blocks to success?
I would say that one of the key reasons behind the generally poor performance of public servants is that the pool of applicants is still lacking in quality. In the past, recruitment of new public servants relied on four criteria: first, nepotism amongst powerful families; second, monetary bribes; third, using other forms of connections, and then finally, knowledge and experience."
With such selection criteria how could we possibly be able to select people competent enough to serve the nation?
In recent years, we changed the recruitment process by conducting examinations, but some candidates skewed the fairness of the exam by obtaining the contents of the exam before examination day. This kind of ongoing behavior made the examination meaningless. In my opinion, in order to have competent public servants we need to completely revolutionise the recruitment process.
When I was a Deputy Director in the National Assembly Office, on several occasions I talked about how the selection criteria should include both sitting for the test and demonstrating their competency to do the job before a panel. What I mean by this is that, if a candidate wants to seek for a vacant position, he/she has to come before a panel and talk about his/her plan of action for the challenges of the job position.
Another point I would like to make is that the employment contracts we sign with our public servants should not be life tenure. I think short term contracts, for example five year contracts, will make people work harder if they want to keep their job or get a promotion. Of course all employers want to see their companies develop, so it makes sense that they want talented, passionate and competitive people to work for them.
In my opinion, the life tenure contract used currently is a key cause behind the stagnation we see in our public administration. I think it is time for us to change that policy!
The Ministry of Home Affairs was asked to create competitive mechanisms in the recruitment process and to increase the role the office-head plays in administering the entrance test. What's your position on this?
It's true, the leader, either at high up or local levels, should be held responsible for wrongdoings in the administration of the test. Yet the enforcement of that policy is never really made in reality.
When anything wrong occurs, it's always blamed on the whole group and not the leader. We need to change the whole process so that the responsibilities of leaders are clearly specified. If something wrong happens, a particular leader, who is truly responsible, will face punishment. We need to enforce an accountability mechanism.
What should we do then?
First, we should start right at the very beginning at the recruitment stage. The next step would be to adopt various conditional terms in our public servant contracts; specifically we need short term contracts instead of only life tenure contracts.
Additionally we must change the way we fill vacancies. A vacant position should have more than one applicant and the process must be conducted in a transparent and fair manner. — VNS