HA NOI (VNS
)— Traffic police and land administrators are perceived as the most corrupt officials, according to a survey published yesterday by the World Bank and the Government Inspectorate of Viet Nam.
Tran Duc Luong, deputy inspector general of the Government Inspectorate, said the results of the survey - titled "Corruption from the Perspective of Citizens, Firms and Public Officials" - represent the views of more than 2,600 citizens, 1,058 firms and 1,801 public officials in 10 provinces and five ministries, although these do not necessarily reflect the whole of Viet Nam.
Since these surveyed provinces account for 30 per cent of the population and produce 65 per cent of the GDP of the country, the results are nevertheless compelling, he said.
More than one out of three respondents selected corruption as among the three most serious issues for Viet Nam, said James Anderson, a World Bank expert. This illustrates a widespread belief that corruption in both sectors, as well as in construction and customs, is a serious problem, he said.
About 47 per cent of surveyed citizens said they had paid unofficial bribes to traffic police while 25 per cent said they had to give unofficial payments for healthcare services and other administrative services.
Nguyen Hai Anh, a resident of Ha Noi, said that as a new car driver last month she paid more than VND10 million (US$476) in bribes to policemen who accused her of unreasonable traffic violations. She could not disagree with them, so she was forced to pay the fees.
Pham Lam, another resident of Ha Noi, said when he listed his criminal records for a visa application, he was asked to redo the documents three times. He did not know why as the official refused to explain to him.
Then he found out he had to give him money, which brought the procedure to a speedy conclusion, he said.
Meanwhile, enterprises reported paying unofficial bribes most often when using services provided by taxation agencies (33 per cent), administration agencies (22 per cent), traffic police (16 per cent) and customs (16 per cent).
Victoria Kwakwa, Country Director of the World Bank in Viet Nam, said the system of corruption is fed by both the demand and supply sides, creating a vicious circle of bureaucratic problems and unofficial payments that are demanded or offered to solve those problems. More often than not, those payments are initiated by the supply side.
When survey respondents are asked about why they pay bribes, the most common answer is that the officials intentionally create difficulties or delay solving problems.
Specifically, 63 per cent of the surveyed firms said officials intentionally delay solving the firms' requests until they receive bribes, 22 per cent of officials said they witnessed other officials intentionally delaying their duties in order to elicit bribes and 29 per cent of citizens were forced to pay bribes due to such tactics.
Anderson said that nearly 60 per cent of firms and nearly 40 per cent of citizens paid bribes immediately to get things done.
The agencies reported to create the most difficulties are also those receiving the most informal payments.
However, among enterprises paying unofficial bribes, a large portion of enterprises actively initiated giving money or gifts.
In more than 70 per cent of the cases, the unofficial payments were actively proposed by enterprises and the remainder were demanded by officials. Traffic police and market mangement agencies top the list of agencies requesting unofficial payments.
The same result can be seen from citizens' responses: around 80 per cent of them made such payments for taxation services and health care.
Citizens Anh and Lam agreed they voluntarily gave unofficial bribes to avoid unexpected troubles or prolonged procedures.
Deputy Inspector General Luong said a number of measures aimed at preventing corruption have been taken in the past few years, but big changes did not occur.
Around 80-90 per cent of survey respondents believe that corrupt people are not punished enough, and that not enough attention is paid to improving officials' ethics.
"When the problem of corruption is generated in part by the supply side, the need to change societal attitudes is even clearer," Kwakwa said. "Firms and citizens need to know that they have alternatives to bribery, and where no alternatives exist, Viet Nam's leaders need to create them."
Establishing mechanisms to ensure that these policies are all more fully implemented would help reduce corruption nationwide, she said.
Anderson said the survey also suggests that it is necessary to fix the system of asset declarations to help make clear where conflicts of interest lie.
Empowering the media to disseminate knowledge of the rules and societal costs of corruption and provide the public with information on dealing with difficult situations would also help, he said.
Fiona Lappin, head of UK Department for International Development in Viet Nam, agreed that the media can play a vital role in the fight against corruption - as long as it has access to adequate information. — VNS