Phan Xuân Xiểm. — Photo nguoiduatin.vn
Phan Xuân Xiểm, member of the Party Central Inspection Commission talks to the Khoa học và Đời sống newspaper (Science and Life) on how to draw a clear line between a gift and a bribery act.
What are your thoughts on bribery, specifically in the form of gifts?
We need to differentiate between a gift and an act of bribery. It is common that people giving gifts to each other to say “thank you” or to further tighten the relationship between them. When that gift is worth several thousands of dollars, or a house, or car, then I’m pretty sure the giver must have an ulterior motive.
In the fight against corruption, it is very difficult to make a clear line between a gift and a bribery act.
Do you mean the act of giving an expensive gift is a sign for an act of corruption?
Absolutely. There is no reason for someone to offer a car or a house to someone else. Such an act should be considered bribery. Of course, when someone suddenly becomes rich, responsible offices or agency should ask the question why and try to find an appropriate answer. Of course, all party members or Government officials have to declare their assets annually. If suddenly, some people have recently got a big asset or become rich quickly, we should ask the question why so.
In such situations do those who receive the gifts have to explain themselves?
Yes. If they can’t give a reasonable answer, their asset is likely to be confiscated. However, it is not easy to differentiate what is a gift or what is a bribe. This is the case in Việt Nam in recent years. Such high value gifts will only be exposed to the public when they have been discovered.
Do you know anyone who has returned their gifts to the authorites?
The number of people who have returned them to the authorities is very few. I still remember when I worked in the Inspection Commission of the Party Central Committee, I witnessed only a few people having returned their gifts, but the value of the gifts was very small. I have never seen anyone having returned their gifts in the form of a car or a house.
Don’t you think that the value of the gifts is too big so it is very “difficult” for them to return?
It is likely that some people may hesitate as they think that it will not do any harm to them if they keep it. On the other hand, some people may think that no one would know what they have accepted as a bribe.
What could we do to encourage government officials to return valuable gifts to the authorities?
This is a personal and sensitive issue. In my opinion, if all Government officials hold high their responsibilities in their work, they will return the gifts to the authorities. We can’t force them if they don’t want to.
But there is a very thin line between genuine gifts and a bribe. And in such a case, only an upstanding Government official can make the right decision.
Do you think that Việt Nam should set a ceiling on the value of a gift that a Government official can accept?
This is a right of each person to give a gift to each other. The only thing we should think about is the purpose of giving the gift. This is the task of the functional Government agencies. However, if any government official suddenly owns a big asset or becomes rich quickly the authorised agency should launch an investigation immediately. This is the only way we can prevent/deter corruption acts. — VNS