Phung Quoc Hien, chairman of the NA Committee on Budget and Finance, tells Thoi bao Kinh Te Viet Nam (Viet Nam Economic Times) about the committee's role in protecting misues of taxpayers' money.
Some people have criticised the National Assembly, saying it doesn't have much power in the State budget process. Do you agree?
I don't agree. Under the 2013 Constitution, the National Assembly is the highest representative body of the people and the highest organ of state power in the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. The National Assembly exercises three main functions to legislate, to decide on important national issues, and to exercise supervision over all State activities.
The National Assembly is vested with the power to make decisions on issues relating to the state budget, including state revenues and expenditures. No other Vietnamese government office or agency has the right to decide the State annual budget.
It is incorrect to think that the National Assembly has to be involved in building the state budget from the very outset. I believe this is not novel; it is a universal practice.
The task of writing the budget proposal is the government's responsibility. The National Assembly specifically has the duty of reviewing and overseeing the numbers in the estimated budget, prepared by the government, and to make sure they are corrected if need be. That is the absolute right of the National Assembly.
Of course, not all decisions made by the National Assembly get full-house approval, but we do uphold the principle that majority rules, as practised around the world.
Since finance and the budget are fields that require special expertise, only a few deputies have deep enough knowledge to actually judge them. Do you agree?
I can't agree more. The budget and finance are important fields that require special expertise. However, all financial and budgetary reports submitted to the National Assembly for approval are well prepared by the government. The language used in the reports is simple so that even laymen can understand them; this is important and helps representatives cast their votes.
In reality, each report and proposal submitted to the National Assembly for approval has gone through three steps. First, the Budgetary and Finance Committee works with the Government and government agencies. They sit together and discuss points that they do not agreed upon in the first draft. Second, they make amendments to the first draft and submit it to the National Assembly's Standing Committee to discuss. If the NA Standing Committee fails to reach an agreement on the report, it will then submit it for a full house meeting for further discussion before the deputies finally cast their votes on approval.
Does that mean that the Committee on Budget and Finance of the National Assembly plays an important role in helping National Assembly deputies make their decisions?
Yes! The Budgetary and Finance Committee's role is very important. The most important thing is that all NA deputies must receive sufficient information to help them make educated decisions.
In the most recent version of the draft State Budget Law, which is presently on the National Assembly's table, my committee proposed that more time be given for preparing estimated budget proposals and for the government to finalise them before sending to the National Assembly and its committees for comments.
As the Chairman of the National Assembly's Committee on Finance and Budget, what do you see as the committee's responsibility when the National Assembly makes decisions on State finance and budgetary issues?
It is our responsibility to make sure no errors are made before the deputies cast their votes. While checking the balance sheet, if we detect any wrongdoing or errors in public spending we must take action to correct it. This already happened several years ago.
We have to ensure that we use tax payers' money wisely. — VNS