$3 M Project launched to Enhance Oversight Role of Viet Nam’s Elected Bodies

06 Jun 2003

Ha Noi - A five-year project that will provide $ 3 million to enhance the budget oversight capacities of Viet Nam’s National Assembly (NA) and its People’s Councils at local levels was launched today.

Representatives of the Committee for Economic and Budgetary Affairs (CEBA) of the NA, the Ministry of Finance (MOF), State Audit of Viet Nam (SAV) and People’s Councils of 11 pilot provinces jointly discussed the project’s implementation and coordination mechanism.

The ambitious project, titled Strengthening the capacities of the National Assembly and People's Councils in Viet Nam in examination, decision and oversight of State Budget is supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), together with generous contributions from Canada, and the United Kingdom.

This project was launched amid legislative debates on legal development agenda that has just seen the endorsement of the Law on oversight activities by the NA during the on-going session. The new Law seeks to fulfill provisions of the 1992 Constitution, as amended, and should result in increased power for the NA. At heart of these new responsibilities lies the decision-making power on national financial and monetary policies, including the drafting, allocation and oversight of State Budget.

The allocation of central budget, previously performed by the Standing Committee of the NA, now is undertaken by the 498 deputies that compose the 11th Legislature for the term 2002-2007. This situation creates the demand for strengthening economic and budgetary oversight capacities of the NA as the highest State institution.

 The project will be executed by the CEBA in collaboration with MOF, SAV and all 11 provinces, selected for their representativity. Mr. Nguyễn Đức Kiên, Chairman of the CEBA stated: “The CEBA and other participating agencies and localities are well prepared to ensure the rapid take-off of this project and will spare no effort to make project implementation a success. This project will undoubtedly help us further our public finance oversight function, which is one of the most fundamental mandates assigned to the people’s elected bodies at all levels in Viet Nam.”

The initiative will help the Assembly and the Councils play a full role in the country’s crucial fiscal decentralization process and provide technical support to the Ministry of Finance and the State Audit in that process.  The focus will be on strengthening economic research and budget analysis and oversight, including the use of information technology. The National Assembly is considering setting up its own auditing office to assist deputies to oversee central and provincial revenue and spending.

This initiative will support the work of the 498 deputies of the 11th Legislature, in particular that of the 40 members of the CEBA, the largest of the 8 committees of the NA. As a result, it is expected to improve capacity of the MPs for the examination, decision and oversight of the state budget. Through the project, the provision of Government’s fiscal information to the NA will be standardized and regularized; and capacities of the MOF and SAV to support the legislature in its budget oversight role will also be considerably improved.

One of the most important innovations of the amended Constitution is the decentralisation of budgets.  In this regard, the State Budget Law has recently been revised to increase budgetary authority of People’s Councils. This new role requires new capacities of locally elected bodies to understand and oversee the local budget allocation and management process.

Ms. Cẩm Thị Phùi, Vice-Chairperson of Son La provincial People’s Council commented at the launching workshop: “We very much look forward to pro-active participation in this meaningful project as this is the first time a mountainous locality like Son La has the chance to take part in such important activities. They will enhance the capacities needed for effective and efficient management of the whole budgetary process, especially those issues directly relating to oversight tasks of People’s Councils that are assigned by the new Budget Law.”

“This is a unique opportunity for UNDP and our partners from Canada and the UK  to support the rule of law by empowering Viet Nam’s highest legislative body and locally elected bodies,” said UNDP Resident Representative Jordan Ryan. “The NA has a vital role in the move towards a more accountable government, where people have a real say in decisions that affect their lives and can hold officials to account when they don’t live up to their promises,” he added. “This is also a good vehicle to fulfill Viet Nam’s international commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.”

The project is indeed expected to boost government transparency and accountability through public access to information about budgets and laws, steps essential to ensure that the commitment to grassroots democracy is realized.

Ms. Bella Bird, the new Head of the UK Department for International Development in Vietnam, said: "The National Assembly and the People’s Councils have a crucial part to play in ensuring that the Viet Nam's Comprehensive Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy is successfully implemented. The UK is very pleased to play a role in helping to strengthen the voice of the Vietnamese people in that process, through supporting the development of their representative bodies."

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