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Ministry aims to de-stigmatise resignations by public officials

Update: April, 19/2012 - 10:28

by Thu Hien

HA NOI — The Ministry of Home Affairs will soon submit to the Government for consideration and approval of the nation's first-ever regulation that would govern the resignation of public officials.

Resignation should be considered normal and shows responsibility and self-respect of officials for themselves and their work, said Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Tran Anh Tuan.

"People who resign are not bad and deserve respect," Tuan said.

Historically, Vietnamese officials who commit wrongdoing or fail to fulfill their duties, have consistently avoided resigning. It was seen as the ultimate loss of face.

But Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, in a meeting last month on the Government's ongoing battle against corruption, said the Party wished high-ranking officials who make mistakes or commit violations due to irresponsibility or inadequate qualifications for their duties be encouraged to resign without further ramifications.

Last week, 16 leaders of the People's Committees of the city of Long Xuyen and five other districts in Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta An Giang Province received warnings for their violations of land management regulations, causing losses to the public coffers of billions of dong.

Earlier, public attention was drawn to a case of a high-level official in the Ministry of Health who had abused his position to borrow money from the executives of State-owned enterprises under his supervision. He had also been found to have made arbitrary and unconstructive assessment of his inferiors and falsely claiming he held a doctoral degree. His only punishment was a warning from the Central Inspection Committee.

The violations of these officials were obvious. Their prestige was eroded and they had lost any ability to lead effectively. They also avoided giving any formal apologies despite public outrage. But none of them were forced to resign.

The culture of resignation is well established in many other countries around the world. When former German President Christian Wulff was forced to resign last February in the wake of disclosures over his personal financial dealings and acceptance of financial favours from political backers, he said he was resigning because only a president who enjoyed the "full trust of the broad majority of the people" could take on the enormous challenges of the position on the international stage as well as at home.

Just this week, Bangladeshi railways minister Suranjit Sengupta announced his resignation following allegations that he took bribes from applicants seeking jobs on the state-owned railway.

At the beginning of this month, South Korea's police chief resigned following public fury over a bungled case in which a woman was raped and murdered after frantically calling police for help. He said he would step down to "take all responsibility... for unpardonable carelessness" by the police, and he asked the victim's family for forgiveness.

Last August, former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced his resignation amid widespread criticism of his handling of the aftermath of the tsunami and subsequent crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

These officials' decisions to resign were made because they no longer enjoyed the full trust of the people they served, and not merely for their mistakes.

In Viet Nam, resignation is already mentioned in two important laws, the Law on Organisation of the National Assembly and the Law on Organisation of the Government. The articles regulated that officials, due to their health or other reasons preventing them from fulfilling their duties, can resign their positions. But it's not the same here in.

So, why does the notion of resigning a post seems to remain so novel?

According to one National Assembly deputy from Ha Noi, during the recruitment or promotion process in some agencies, candidates spend a great deal on bribing decision-makers.

"Lobbying to get promoted or employed has become a dangerous disease," he said.

There is a saying in the country that a mandarin can bring a lot of benefit to his family. A prejudice has also taken deep root in people's minds that resignation means losing face not only for the official but for his entire family.

But to improve the quality of officials at all levels, it is time for Vietnamese officials to make a legal commitment upon taking office that they will resign if they are unable to complete their duties or act in such as way as to lose the public trust.

More importantly, only when public and transparent recruitment or promotion processes are implemented can the Government recruit capable officials. It is these people that will have the self-respect to vacate their positions for the public good. — VNS

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