Public Administration Reform (PAR) Partnership Forum

22 Oct 2010

Speaker: Ms. Setsuko Yamazaki, UNDP Country Director
Date:       Friday, 22 October 2010
Event:      Public Administration Reform (PAR) Partnership Forum

Mr. Nguyen Tien Dinh, Vice-Minister of Home Affairs;
Representatives from the ministries of agriculture and rural development, investment and planning, finance,  education, health, and information and culture, office of the Government;
Representatives from Ho Chi Minh City, Hai Phong and Nam Dinh, Lang Son, Nghe An, Thai Binh Province;
International development partners;
Ladies and gentlemen;

We are here today because we all believe in the importance of creating an efficient, responsive and transparent public administration in Viet Nam. As the rapid socio-economic development of Viet Nam  continues, it is even more important to develop good-quality public and administrative services to support industrialization, poverty reduction and further human development.

One year ago, as the review of the current Public Administration Reform Master Plan and orientations for the next phase of reform were being prepared by the Government, we met for the Public Administration Reform Partnership Forum. Through our discussions, we provided inputs to the Government’s review process, and amongst other things concluded that the internal review should be accompanied by an independent review.

It is a privilege to open this year’s Forum jointly with Vice-Minister Dinh, and to follow up on our discussions and commitments from last year. Like last year, the forum provides an opportunity for the Government and the international development partners to review achievements in PAR over the last ten years, and to discuss recommendations for the next phase of reform. As the Government is just now formulating the new PAR MP for 2011-2020 our discussion today is very timely. I hope that some of the recommendations that we share today will be considered and reflected in the next master plan.

Later today we will share the preliminary results of both the Government’s review of the master plan and the next phase of PAR, as well as the results of the independent review, which was conducted under the umbrella of a MOHA-UNDP project. Today’s forum will also address two other topics that, in our view, are crucial for the future of public administration reform in Viet Nam. First of all, the non-establishment of people’s councils at district and ward level – an issue which I know  the National Assembly will be reviewing at the current session. Secondly, we will  discuss challenges in implementing the Law on Cadres and Civil Servants. This Law is crucial to developing a more transparent and meritocratic human resource management in the public sector and its implementation will be crucial for the success of the next stage of reforms.

I would like to briefly share with you some of the findings from both the government and independent review.

The internal government review presents an honest, frank and self-critical discussion of issues around implementation. It rightly highlights achievements made in enhancing the legal normative framework, simplifying administrative procedures and reforming the organization and structure of local governments.

However, the review also reveals some shortcomings. For example, we know that although many legal documents have been issued in the past ten years, the quality of most of them is still low and implementation is inconsistent. Another example where targets are lagging behind is in the area of human resources and salary reform. Measures taken over the last ten years have not achieved a breakthrough in the professionalization of the civil service. It is still difficult for the public sector to recruit and retain talented people, and to provide decent salaries which cover the living expenses in a middle income country context.

The independent review, which I mentioned earlier, is still being finalized.  However, preliminary results seem to confirm that some progress has been made in improving the legal framework. The independent review seems to confirm a reduction in timing for issuing implementation guidelines on newly promulgated laws, and by simplifying administrative procedures, in particular in the field of tax and customs, and the establishment of enterprises. Similarly to the government review, the independent review also indicates that human resources and salary reform have achieved too little so far.

Based on these findings, as well as our reading of the draft decision on the Public Administration Reform Programme for 2011 to 2020, we would like to highlight a couple of priority areas. The UN believes that even greater attention should be given to providing better public administrative services. I am sure we all agree this should be the ultimate aim of the new PAR master plan.

One way to better monitor the reform process is to build two-way communication channels between the state and citizens. By asking citizens what frustrations they face, based on their daily interactions with public administrative services, valuable evidence is generated. This can be used by various stakeholders, including the Government, to improve public administrative services at all levels. 

Professionalizing the civil service is another way to deliver better public administrative services. Key to strengthening this professionalization is improving accountability by, for example, clarifying the roles and responsibilities for each administrative agency, as well as public officials and civil servants. The current Law on Cadres and Civil Servants has paved the way for this. However, greater attention still needs to be paid to implementing the civil service inspectorate system, particularly when it refers to monitoring public officials’ and civil servants’ behaviours, attitudes and work responsibilities. “

International experience suggests that governments and local agencies that invest in improving the quality of their public administrative services do so by way of enhancing civil servants’ responsibilities and accountability.

Better service means better government – and that should be the objective of the Public Administration Reform Master Plan for 2011 to 2020. A recent survey undertaken by UNDP together with VietnamNet, also suggests that improving the competency levels of public officials and civil servants, as well as reducing opportunities for informal and extra payments,  play a large role in improving the overall satisfaction with public administrative services. More detailed findings from the survey will be presented later today.

In addition, and from a UN perspective, I would like to emphasize the importance also to empower women working in the public sector both to take on leadership roles in all fields and at higher levels and to deal with new and complex challenges of the country’s socio-economic development.

In closing, I would like to thank MOHA and my colleagues from UNDP for their work in organizing this PAR Forum, and in particular for designing a programme that touches on key dimensions of PAR. I am sure that our discussions today will contribute to the next phase of the PAR process. And, like you, I very much look forward to seeing the benefits for the Vietnamese people of a stronger, more capable and more efficient public sector in Viet Nam.

I wish you a good health and happiness, and a very successful PAR Partnership Forum.