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People commute over Cha Va Bridge in HCM City. The bridge is part of the East-West Boulevard project which was involved in a corruption scandal. Several city officials were charged for receiving bribes in 2008. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Phan
The eighth semi-annual dialogue, which was co-organised by the Government Inspectorate (GI), the Office of the Steering Committee on Anti-Corruption (OSCAC), the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) and the Swedish Embassy, discussed land-related corruption.
Viet Nam has taken great strides in terms of legal framework, preventive measures, administrative reform, inspections and prosecutions among others, according to a report presented by OSCAC at the dialogue.
Under the framework, corruption whistle-blowers and denunciators can now be rewarded and protected, while a draft inter-ministerial circular allowing corruption investigations and prosecution processes to be publicised is being developed.
Several ministries and many provinces, including Kien Giang, Ninh Thuan, Binh Thuan, Da Nang and HCM City, have posted legal information and procedures on their websites in an effort to promote transparency.
For its part, the Ministry of Education and Training has developed an anti-corruption action plan which requires all educational entities to implement the national anti-corruption strategy until 2020.
Swedish ambassador Staffan Herrstrom hailed the country's implementation of the United Nations' Convention on Anti-Corruption, its new Anti-Corruption Law and Strategy towards 2020 and the involvement of grass-root levels in the fight against corruption.
"Viet Nam has kept corruption high on the agenda by joining the international commitments," he said.
Regarding corruption in land use and administration, MONRE's deputy chief inspector Le Van Dat noted that most land-related corruption took place before the Law on Land came into effect seven years ago.
He said the ministry was working with relevant ministries to make amendments to the Law which will be submitted to the National Assembly in two years time in order to fix any loopholes.
Le The Chien from the GI noted that more than 90 per cent of disputes, complaints and denunciations were land-related.
He said that corruption in land administration usually occurred at commune level around major cities where land was illegally allocated to urban and industrial zones.
However, the issuance of land-use right certificates (LURC) was identified as the main factor behind bribery.
The Swedish ambassador noted from a recent study that 86 per cent of Vietnamese households think corruption occurs in land cases and more than 30 per cent of enterprises were willing to pay informal fees in LURC applications.
Dr Nguyen Quoc Hiep of the GI's Research Institute attributed the social acceptance of corruption to complicated laws and procedures, limited access to information and low ethics and responsibility among public officers.
Making it easier
As a result, he recom-mended legalising inter-mediary services, further simplifying the law and developing easy-to-understand procedural guidelines that could be posted online while developing an effective public complaints system.
A member of the National Assembly's Legal Committee, Nguyen Binh Quyen, described the corruption situation in the country as more serious and subtle despite legal and punitive improvements.
"People are ready to offer bribes when it comes to dealing with public servants regarding their benefits," he said, "And many officials are accustomed to accepting bribes."
Pham Chi Lan, a former economic consultant to the government, pointed to the poor capacity of law-enforcing staff as the biggest hurdle in the anti-corruption fight.
"We have a myriad of laws and regulations regarding corruption, but they are poorly implemented," she complained, "The oversight mechanism is weak, too."
She said the grass-roots population should be strongly involved in the fight against corruption, given that most of cases were brought to light by ordinary people.
Measures should be taken to raise awareness about information transparency, remarked James H. Anderson, a World Bank senior governance specialist.
Fiona Lappin, head of the UK Department for International Development in Viet Nam, recommended that public servants should receive a fair salary so that they would not be interested in taking bribes.
Tran Van Truyen, head of the GI, said it would develop appropriate measures based on all recommendations at the dialogues and submit them to the Government for approval.— VNS