Lê Quang Thưởng. —Photo sggp.org.vn
On August 15 the Government Decree No.59/2019/N-CP will come into force. The newspaper Sài gòn Giải phóng interviewed Mr Lê Quang Thưởng, former Permanent Deputy Director of the Organizing Board of the Vietnamese Party Central Committee on how to deter bribery disguised in the form of gifts.
How to differentiate normal gift from bribery
On August 15 the Government Decree No.59/2019/N-CP will come into force. The newspaper Sài gòn Giải phóng interviewed Mr Lê Quang Thưởng, former Permanent Deputy Director of the Organising Board of the Vietnamese Party Central Committee on how to deter bribery disguised in the form of gifts.
Under the revised Law on Anti-Corruption, gifts are sometimes considered an act of bribery. How do you respond to that?
Generally speaking there are two main types of gifts. One type of gift is used as a gesture of thanks from the giver to the recipient for doing some good things for them. Meanwhile the other type is used as a ‘bribe’ to the recipient for helping the giver escape a criminal charge or administrative penalty. In both cases, the recipient should know how to refuse to accept the gift.
I still remember when I was a permanent deputy director of the Organizing Board of the Party Central Committee, a director of a section in a Government Office came to my house and gave me US$1,000 and asked me to help him be promoted to the rank of Deputy Director General of his Corporation. I flatly rejected his money. I didn’t stop at that, but reported the case at the next office meeting and said “we should not promote such a person to a high and important position”.
This story sends a signal to deter people from using money to buy high ranking positions in a public office. Do you agree?
Yes! That’s what we should do to make our society a clean society. In reality, giving small gifts to friends is normal and is a traditional practice in our society. But giving gifts with a ‘malicious’ intent cannot be accepted.
Did you find it difficult saying “no” to the gift?
It is neither easy nor difficult. It depends on each case. Sometimes, they don’t give the gift to me, but to my wife or my children. So I have told my wife and my children not to accept the gifts without telling me.
Do you think the giving and receiving gifts could be considered an act of bribery?
The first thing is to understand the purpose of the gift – if it is for the giver’s own interest or simply a gesture of friendship. However, bribery has been reported regularly and in these cases it is our duty to bring them to light or report to the concerned authorities.
Do you think the decision to refuse the gift depends on the character of each person?
Yes, yet in real life it is not easy. In my opinion, the head of an office should always tell themselves ‘I’m a mirror for my staff to look at’.
What’s the best way to fight corruption between a senior official and their staff?
First of all if the senior official has good conduct, everything in the office will be OK. In our system we have a set of legal documents against corruption, including the Law on Anti-corruption, the Law on Local Administration and Law on Public Administration. What’s more important is that each of us should be a law abiding citizen.
What lessons can we learn from abroad?
In Việt Nam, cash transactions are common. One way to prevent corruption is to persuade people to switch to non-cash transactions. VNS