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Sci-tech agencies told to exercise autonomy

Update: March, 09/2015 - 08:37
The conference reviewed 10 years of implementing a decree that set regulations for autonomous operation of State-owned scientific and technological organisations. — VNS Photo

HA NOI (VNS) — Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam has said budget allocations to State-owned scientific and technological research organisations will be cut if they do not use their autonomy effectively by exerting stronger internal controls and improving their overall management.

His stern warning came at a national conference held in Ha Noi on Friday.

The conference reviewed 10 years of implementing a decree that set regulations for autonomous operation of State-owned scientific and technological organisations.

A report tabled by the Ministry of Science and Technology said that 488 of 642 State-owned scientific and technological organisations, or 76%, had their project proposals for autonomous operations approved prior to the December 31, 2013 deadline.

Among these, 295 organisations have been able to cover their operational expenses on their own, and the remaining 193 have used State budget funds under the contract mode, the report said.

It said 100 per cent of scientific and technological organisations now enjoy full autonomy in implementing their tasks.

Several organisations have reported that their entire 2014 turnover came from contracts for researching and developing scientific and technological services.

The Viet Nam Petroleum Institute, for instance, had a contract worth VND601 billion (US$28 million), while the Institute for Machinery and Industrial Instruments won a VND712 billion ($34 million) contract.

Likewise, the National Research Institute for Mechanical Engineering reported a contract worth VND680 billion ($32 million), the Directorate for Standards, Metrology and Quality's Technical Centre of Standards Metrology and Quality No 3, a VND350 billion ($16.3 million) contract, the Tobacco Economic Technical Institute, a VND291 billion ($13,6 million) contract, and the VINACOMIN – Institute of Mining Science and Technology, a VND205 billion ($9,6 million) contract.

However, Tran Quoc Khanh, deputy minister of Science and Technology, noted that only scientific and technological organisations that benefit from diverse sources of income and enjoy stable profits would be able to thoroughly meet their self-control and self-responsibility obligations.

"Organisations that have special functions, limited capacity and engage in research that does not lend easily to commercialisation, and do not make profit from their own services, face a lot of difficulties in implementing self-control and self-responsibility mechanisms, especially in finance," he said.

Nguyen Quan, minister of Science and Technology, said the greatest challenge of the past ten years has been the lack of thorough preparation as well as inadequate knowledge of the decree. This was compounded by the lack of determination to take action on the part of leaders of organisations as well as some ministries, sectors, and localities, he said.

In fact, he added, some ministries, sectors and localities have failed to complete approval of self-control implementation projects of organisations directly under their management.

He noted that localities like the cities of Ha Noi and Da Nang and the provinces of Bac Giang, Ha Nam, Khanh Hoa and Lai Chau have not yet ratified any projects.

Quite a few ministries and sectors have been very slow in issuing and amending documents guiding the implementation of Decree 115, especially regarding financial regimes and norms.

This might also be because very few organisations have been given full autonomy over their finances, human resources management and international co-operation, he conceded.

Transparency, autonomy

Deputy PM Dam stressed the need for transparency in all steps, from selecting the topic of research to checking its content and publishing the results. He said this was needed to avoid the duplication of previous works.

"And autonomy or self-control is an important phase in practicing transparency in scientific and technological research in Viet Nam," Dam said.

He said unofficial statistics indicate that more than 1 per cent of the GDP is funneled into scientific and technological research, which is not much lower than countries at similar development levels.

Nevertheless, the resource should be utilised much more efficiently to increase the number of people working in the field, and decrease wastage. The number of people not performing their tasks effectively should be reduced, he said.

"The ultimate goal of the autonomy regulation is to address shortcomings resulting from years of subsidies, which led to ineffective use of investments for science and technology and the failure to attract non-State sectors to invest in this area," the deputy PM said.

"I have asked the ministries of Science and Technology, Home Affairs and Finance to completely address lingering shortcomings on their own or request decisions from the Government and the Prime Minister," he said.

He also asked ministries, sectors and localities to show greater determination in clarifying all issues and ensuring self-control in all organisations directly under their management, especially the 154 whose self-control projects have not been approved.

"If any organisation fails to transfer to the self-control operation, they will no longer receive State budget funding," he said. — VNS

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