|Hồ Đức Phớc, head of the State Audit of Việt Nam. — VNA/VNS Photo Minh Đông|
The 14th assembly of the Asian Organisation of Supreme Auditing Institutions (ASOSAI) is an international ministerial-level gathering that is being held in Việt Nam for the first time in 2018. Ahead of the high-profile event, Dr Hồ Đức Phớc, Auditor General of the State Audit of Việt Nam, discussed the contributions of the agency in recent years with Vietnam News Agency.
Can you please tell us how the State Audit of Việt Nam has contributed to improving transparency in the use and management of the State budget?
Since the establishment of the State Audit in 1997, we have proposed that the Government look into violations in financial handling of at least VNĐ353 trillion (over US$15 billion).
The compliance rate has also seen improvements throughout the years. In 2015, legal compliance was 64.3 per cent. The figure increased to 75.6 per cent and 78.2 per cent, respectively, in 2016 and 2017.
The State Audit has provided the National Assembly with timely, important proposals and information in considering approval for State budget spending plans, cash injection decisions or investment approvals for key national projects.
Our information has also been used in the Government’s State management activities in order to achieve efficient usage of public resources, contain inflation and maintain the economy’s stability.
Via exhaustive auditing procedures, the State Audit has uncovered several violations or limitations in the management and usage of public finance and assets, based on which we put forth corrective measures to the audited companies and organisations.
The State Audit has also proposed revisions, amendments or abolition of hundreds of legal documents on the management of public finances and resources that were found to be impractical or containing loopholes that threaten financial discipline. (In the 2011-17 period alone, we submitted amendment proposals regarding 669 legal documents.)
The proposals to rectify such defective documents contribute to increased transparency in the use of the State budget, the management of public finance and assets, which will drive down corruption and wastefulness.
To achieve these results, what specific activities have the State Audit focused on?
We have also identified areas that are prone to corruption and wastefulness in the use of State budget, such as the implementation of Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) or Build-Transfer (BT) projects, land use and management, and basic construction projects.
SAV has also measures in place to keep an eye on our own auditors, such as an online diary for auditors where entries cannot be erased, aside from unannounced inspections.
Internal contests are often held in which auditors’ performances are assessed, culminating in the awarding of ‘golden audit’ prizes to individuals or teams with outstanding performances, in all of our auditing cases.
We strive to deepen the level of information technology integration within our works, especially in basic construction and natural resources auditing.
However, we know that in auditing, despite the increasingly modern tools and software, the key to success lies with the human factors, therefore we have paid ample attention to improve the level of competence, ethics and professional pride of our auditors.
We are actively pushing international integration, including strategic co-operation with foreign auditing institutions, to learn from their experience and technologies, as an important part of our plan to build the State Audit into a responsible and reputable public finance watchdog agency, which meets the demands of a modernising country and international standards.
What issues in the use and management of State budget have you found to be the most important?
Some of the highlights in our works that have attracted public attention include investigations into the public-private partnership (PPP) mechanisms, the management of natural resources (minerals, specifically), auditing the value of the State-owned enterprises and assessing State-owned enterprises’ restructuring plans.
We are also striving towards the betterment of our capacity in information technology auditing operations.
Regarding PPP auditing, in addition to reclaiming trillions of misused đồng for the State budget, we have also advised the Government on consolidating its legal framework for the mechanism.
On land use, we will focus on identifying items that are not in line with the master plan, failure to carry out open bidding to select the most appropriate contractor, or wrongdoings in granting or leasing public land, ineffective management of public land – including improper valuation of land that causes severe losses to the State coffers.
In terms of State management of natural resources, the State Audit looks into the usual suspects: authorised agencies wrongly issuing mining licences and mining companies overexploiting beyond the permitted volume or boundary. The Government’s supervision and handling of mining violations also have not been entirely effective. — VNS