Viet Nam must practice thrift and fight waste, Le Hong Son, director general of the Bureau of Legal Nominative Documents Post Review under the Ministry of Justice, told Ha Noi Moi (New Ha Noi).
Public debt and waste in public spending have become a hot topic in Viet Nam these days. Do you think it is time for stricter controls on public spending?
Our budgetary and financial situation is already in the red. So public spending, particularly public procurement, has to be looked at. And when we talk about public procurement, we cannot fail to mention the buying of luxurious cars by many government offices. I feel it is high time Viet Nam put a cap on buying cars by government offices. If this is doe, we can save a huge sum of money for other important activities.
So you are suggesting a policy specifically targeting the purchase and use of cars by public officials?
There are more than 37,000 public cars nation-wide, excluding those belonging to the armed forces or State-owned enterprises. In 2013 alone, nearly 1,500 cars were bought for VND1,400 billion ($66.6 million). The number of new cars bought is important, but it is perhaps more important to talk about the maintenance cost of these cars, particularly the sum spent on purchasing spare parts, running petrol and other related costs, including drivers' wages and mechanics' charges. That's why I strongly recommend that the government should issues a policy on the use public cars.
Are there no restrictions in existing policies?
It is already covered in a Prime Minister's Decision (59/2007/QD-TTg) that states clearly what types of car a government agency can buy. However, implementation of this Decision is something to talk about. Mismanagement of the vehicles by various agencies/offices has cost the State Budget a huge sum of money. I feel we should considerably tighten controls on the purchase of public cars. Instead of buying new ones, the office/agency can lease cars when needed. This can save quite a lot of money.
Who should be entitled to use the public cars?
I think people in positions from ministers upward or similar positions at the central government should be entitled to use public cars. Government officials at provincial or lower levels, including Chairman of the Provincial People's Council, Chairman of the Provincial People's Committees and the Party Secretary of the Provincial Party Committee should also be entitled to have public cars at their disposal. However, there must be a price ceiling for the type of car, depending on the position, ranging from VND700/800 million to 1 billion per one unit.
For Deputy Minister and similar positions at the central government or NA deputies at provincial level, I suggest we eliminate the use of public cars to transport them from their home to offices every day, as happens now.
I still remember, years ago, we had already piloted a program on giving a certain monthly sum to senior government officers, cover their travelling costs. But that programme couldn't last long. Do you know why?
I personally appreciated that decision. Yet, it failed because not many people supported it. I think that we should revive that decision. But the way we do it should be changed to make it closer to actual needs.
For example, if someone is entitled to have a public car to take them to work every day, and she/he does not want to use that car, he/she should be given VND 5 million per month as a travel allowance. I think the proposal is rational and can easily be accepted by the user or the government office.
I also think that before we make the final decision, we should launch a campaign to make everyone aware of the benefit of setting spending norms for senior government officials. — VNS