Governments should function as efficient public service providers,Pham Duy Nghia, a lecturer at the Fulbright Economics Teaching Programme in HCM City, tells the Hai Quan (Customs Online) newspaper
Can you explain your comment at a recent workshop that administrations should focus more on being a public service centre?
I was very impressed during a visit to the Binh Duong Administrative-Political Centre, which opened early this year. Visitors to the centre don't have to show their ID or any kind of paper. It is quite different from other administrative offices in Viet Nam. I saw no security guards at the entrance gate.
Clients visiting the centre for assistance were given helpful advice in a friendly, convenient and transparent atmosphere.
I also visited a similar political-administrative centre in Ho Chi Minh City. The service there was as good as in Binh Duong. After completing each administrative procedure, the clients were asked to give their comments on the service they received.
The difference at the HCM Centre was that the status of their dossiers was texted to the mobile phones of the clients. I was told by an official there that the centre was planning to offer a service where the documents would be delivered to the clients at their homes.
What I observed in both HCM City and Binh Duong has strengthened my thinking that the 2013 Constitution has generated bright prospects for the reform of the State Institution towards serving the people better.
Whether this happens or not depends on the will of people in power at all levels.
To achieve this goal how do government agencies have to change?
Based on the 2013 Constitution, we can adjust the arrangement of our national administration. The model we are using at present can be described as a Matryoshka doll. In other words, the central government is replicated at local levels. This model has somehow impeded and slowed down the response to changes from the top.
If a service requires immediate decision and implementation, it has to be done by an office having better access to information to undertake the job with a fair charge on the customer. Thus, we can decide which government agency is the right one for a particular function or service.
In our system, most of the public services, ranging from social security, house hold registration, business and others are provided by communal/ward or precinct district administrations. Meanwhile, provincial/city or national administrations provide services relating to, taxes, customs from enterprises.
In such a model, communal, urban or provincial governments should be considered as legal entities having their own independent budget. Meanwhile, wards or precincts, affiliates to autonomous urban governments and districts within a province, will act as "intermediary administrative agents" of the city or province.
Assets, public ownership and investment capital in State- owned enterprises should also be owned by legal entities in accordance with the government system from central to the grassroots levels.
For example, national assets like natural resources, including mineral resources, economic groups, railway network, tele-communication systems are subject to central government management. Local assets and projects invested in by local governments can be owned by legal entities there.
If we conceptualise provincial government as a legal entity, the People's Councils, the People's Committees, departments and offices affiliated to that provincial government will become affiliates of that legal entity.
Can you elaborate on your idea about more powers given to the Vice Minister and the Director of the General Department?
Principally speaking, a Minister is a political official as he/she is elected by voters and the National Assembly. But a Vice Minister is an appointed public servant. So all administrative work should be entrusted to the Vice Minister.
We can put it like this: The government has two tiers. The first tier, hanh phap chinh tri (legal matter and politics) has the main function of issuing policies. The second tier consists of professional law enforcement agencies.
With such a model, a ministry only needs one minister and one or two vice ministers.
The Ministry of Planning and Investment has officially asked the government to review and adjust the policy on decentralisation in investment management. What is your response to this?
This is a current trend, resorted to especially when the economy becomes bigger and more complicated. However failures have occurred during the decentralisation process due to poor planning and poor supervision. The decentralisation mechanism cannot be blamed.
For example, to decentralise investment management, we must have a law on planning that shows what can and cannot be done on a certain piece of land. Or the Law on Environmental Protection must clearly state what enterprises can and cannot do, and so on and so forth.
In my opinion, we were not well prepared to introduce the decentralisation policy. That's why some mishaps have happened. These are errors in implementation, not in the decentralisation principle. — VNS