Local government: More transparent but not enough

10:47 | 19/07/2019 Finance - Banking

(VEN) - The recently announced 2018 Provincial Open Budget Index (POBI) report shows positive changes in Vietnamese localities in this field. Vietnam Economic News’ Thanh Tam spoke with Associate Professor, Dr. Vu Sy Cuong, leader of the Budget Transparency Coalition’s research team, about these changes.

local government more transparent but not enough
Associate Professor, Dr. Vu Sy Cuong, leader of the Budget Transparency Coalition’s research team

Could you briefly describe the results of budget transparency research conducted by the team?

POBI surveys were conducted in Vietnam for the first time in 2017 and maintained in 2018. The index is a tool for provinces and cities to reference and measure the degree of publicity and transparency in State budget management and the enforcement level of the 2015 State Budget Law.

POBI 2018 consisted of two pillars: budget transparency disclosure and public participation. POBI rankings are based on 65 questions for the transparency pillar with nine types of documents, including seven compulsory documents under the 2015 State Budget Law. The survey also assessed the completeness, timeliness, availability and convenience of local budget documents.

The average score of POBI 2018 was 51 on a 100-point scale, much higher than the average score of 30.5 points in 2017. This score reflects the improved state budget transparency of 63 provinces and cities nationwide.

In 2018, six provinces were listed in Group A with fully open budgets (compared to none in 2017). Vinh Long Province topped the list, scoring 90.52 points, followed by Ba Ria-Vung Tau with 85.91 points, Da Nang with 83.09 points, Vinh Phuc with 82.05 points, Quang Nam with 76.68 points and Hau Giang with 76.66 points. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City scored 49.72 points and 48.98 points, respectively. The coastal northern city of Hai Phong placed at the bottom with 5.14 points.

Could you explain the low budget transparency of major cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Hai Phong?

The low scores of major cities and provinces can be attributed to different reasons. In fact, these localities might not have publicized or did not make full disclosure of their budget documents. For example, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City publicized their documents, but not fully and not at required times.

Public participation rankings in POBI 2018 make it different from its 2017 version. Could you say something about this?

In 2018, POBI surveys were conducted for the first time on public participation in local budget management. Specifically, surveys were carried out to see how local finance departments communicate with residents via electronic portals.

However, survey results did not satisfy me. Provinces provide little opportunity for people to participate in local budget management. The average score of 63 provinces and cities is 34.6 points. Bac Ninh takes the lead with 66.6 points. Many provinces scored 16.6 points, reflecting a very low level of public participation.

Thanh Tam