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Enhancing business engagement in promoting integrity and tackling corruption in Vietnam

Private sector has a critical role to play in fighting corruption both through individual initiatives and collective action.

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The 12th Anti-Corruption Dialogue
The 12th Anti-Corruption Dialogue

Private sector has a critical role to play in fighting corruption both through individual initiatives such as compliance programmes which involve customers and suppliers and collective action among the business and with government to promote integrity and transparency.

Hanoi, 12 November 2013 - The 12th Anti-Corruption Dialogue under the theme “Enhancing business engagement in promoting integrity and tackling corruption in Vietnam” was held today with the British Embassy Hanoi and the UK Department for International Development working in cooperation with the Government Inspectorate and the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry to discuss the role of business in anti-corruption as well as the views of business on the challenges they face, and practical solutions that will meet their need.

Inspector General Mr Huynh Phong Tranh opened the Dialogue, highlighting the significant role of the annual Anti-Corruption Dialogue. He said: “I am glad to have the participation of international businesses, chambers of commerce and associations at the Dialogue today. Through a series of technical workshops organised in preparation for this Dialogue, we have seen good examples of shared successful practices, identified the cost to business of bribery and fraud and covered the different points of view of different stakeholders. Corruption has a big impact on the socio-economic development of the country, creates unfair competition in the market and leads to crony interest groups. Good corporate governance together with legal compliance are the basis for sustainable development of the business sector in Vietnam. The Prime Minister has agreed to apply international best practice within Vietnam and to extend the scope of anti-corruption law to include private enterprises, so this anti-corruption dialogue is very timely, and with the co-operation of stakeholders the dialogue will be a great success.”

Speaking following this the British Ambassador Dr Antony Stokes said: “In any country, economic health can be hollowed out by corruption. Vietnam’s economic potential is perhaps particularly great; equally, the potential damage is particularly severe.

If the economy suffers, business will suffer. And business holds real power to take the initiative, if it can act collectively. That is why the theme of this year’s dialogue is “Enhancing business engagement in promoting integrity and tackling corruption in Vietnam”.

Collective business engagement needs strong business networks. So I am delighted that this ACD has two new partners. They are: the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry; and the Vietnam Business Forum. Government and business initiatives are complementary: each increases the success of the other. Worldwide, there are more and more examples of collective, voluntary action to raise standards.

The technical discussions prior to this Dialogue raised several areas for possible collective action: tax, customs, procurement and licensing. It is now for business and government in Vietnam to agree what they wish to do in the coming year and for them to make it happen.”

Attending this event, representatives from the business community also stressed that businesses are ready to take action and be part of the solution to improve business integrity and that tackling corruption is a multi-stakeholder initiative. The businesses also emphasised the role of government to commit to prioritise areas to work with businesses in piloting anti-corruption collective action initiatives and the role of Chambers of commerce and business association in facilitating this process The Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Vietnam Business Forum representatives reiterated the business community’s concerns about the issue of corruption and re-stated their commitment to work with the government as a partner to tackle corruption.

Recommendations, put forward from the consultation process were also dealt with during the Dialogue. They included knowledge sharing between business, government and development partners on anti-corruption policy and legislation and linking anti-corruption efforts to ongoing trade negotiation such as EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement or Trans-Pacific Partnership. Both the New Zealand and Swedish Ambassadors noted that the issue of corruption affects the willingness of international companies to invest into Vietnam, and therefore Vietnam’s international integration. Establishment and enforcement of the Code of Conduct in businesses to create an equitable, transparent and non-corruption business environment is essential.

Deputy Prime Minister Phuc commended the Dialogue and noted that the country cannot survive without business. He also made clear the government’s commitment to continue to tackle corruption, in particular by encouraging SOEs to lead by example and improve their corporate governance systems.

Commenting on the roles of business and government in the anti-corruption agenda, the World Bank Vietnam Country Director Ms Victoria Kwakwa stressed that the real challenge for Vietnam is moving from good legislation to action so that the government is seen as credible: Most people in Vietnam feel that the anti-corruption effort has waned, that it is still a major issue and the effort is not as strong as it needs to be. Moving to implementation is key to combatting the perception is that no progress is being made.

The Swedish Ambassador highlighted government’s consistent position of the important role that a free media plays in combatting corruption and encouraged the government to continue to work towards a legal framework for journalists that allows them to operate without fear of legal repercussions or personal safety.

In his closing remarks, the British Ambassador Dr Antony Stokes called for both individual and collective actions in tackling corruption. He emphasised: “I want to applaud the action oriented approach of this year’s dialogue. Corruption is not only a moral issue but also an economic imperative. We see business’ role as one of leadership. VCCI’s pledge to implement a new initiative - Project 12 - and VBF’s recommendations, including suggestions for concrete steps on customs, tax and administration, are important steps forwards towards collective action and partnership with the government.

I hope that today marks the point at which business moves from being the victim of corruption, or the agent of corruption to become the partner of the government in the fight against corruption. I welcome the government’s position that the media is important in this area and join the Swedish Ambassador in encouraging the government to continue to work towards a legal framework for journalists that allows them to fight against corruption and operate without fear of legal repercussions or about their personal safety.

The theme of the dialogue for next year will be decided in November and December this year. But we are keen to build on today’s successes, and carry forward the momentum that we, business and the government have developed in partnership, with strong, clear and committed action in fighting corruption into the future.”

Prior to this Anti-corruption Dialogue, the British Embassy in Hanoi, as the lead development partner worked with both the business and Government to organise a series of consultation workshops with foreign and Vietnamese businesses in Hanoi, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City in late October. Recommendations from the Anti-Corruption Dialogue will be submitted to Vietnam Development Partnership Forum to be held in early December for discussion and solutions.

Published 13 November 2013