The theme of the 6th Anti-Corruption Dialogue “Corruption impacts in the health sector in Vietnam: How to improve transparency and accountability” is about human dignity, perhaps more than anything else. Corruption hit them when they are at their most vulnerable. And in the situation of life and death, of being healthy or being sick, you do not have a real choice – you just pay!, says the Ambassador of Sweden, Mr Rolf Bergman.
Representatives from the Government agencies of Vietnam and international development partners as well as international and national experts gathered in Hanoi on 26 November 2009 to discuss the current situation of corruption in the health sector in Vietnam and share experience on how to cope with the problems and consequences of corruption.
The 6th Anti-Corruption Dialogue was co-chaired by the Government Inspectorate and the Office of Central Steering Committee on Anti-Corruption (OSCAC) of Vietnam and the Embassy of Sweden, who acts as lead on behalf of the development partners. The Head of OSCAC, Mr Vu Tien Chien opened the Dialogue by saying that the Government of Vietnam is fully aware of the serious and complex situation of corruption in the country. Mr Chien added: “I call on the participants to the Dialogue to properly assess the actual situation, clearly identify the causes of corruption, recommend practical and feasible solutions and exchange views in a frank, open and accountable manner and in the principle of equal cooperation.”
In his opening speech, the Ambassador of Sweden, Mr Rolf Bergman congratulated the Government of Vietnam for showing the will of wanting to curb nation-wide corruption problems. However, he said: “In order to fight corruption successfully, the political commitment of the Government is necessary but not enough! Much remains to be done in the area of transparency, accountability, asset declaration, job rotation and action against the heads of agencies with corruption/bribery cases .Corruption undermines human rights; increases inequality, withhold services and as a result, too often people die. The poor, as we will see, bear the burden of corruption.”
Corruption in the health sector is a concern in many countries, but it is an especially critical problem in developing and transitional economies where public resources are already scarce. Corruption in the health sector hit people when they are most vulnerable and the only way out is to pay in order to get the health service you need. We also know that it is an unequal situation when it comes to peoples knowledge about prices, medicines, treatment. Some part of the health system is taking advantage of this, and again this hits the poorest in the society. Corruption deprives people from access to health care and can lead to the wrong treatments being given. But not only poor people are effected by corruption in health sector. Corruption in the pharmaceutical chain can also prove deadly, where anybody can be a victim.
The 6th Anti-Corruption Dialogue informed the participants of the progress of Vietnam’s anti-corruption work in general and in the area of construction and investment in particular following the recommendations and solutions worked out at the previous Anti-Corruption Dialogue in May this year. The Government also reported to the participants its implementation of the National Strategy on Anti-Corruption until 2020 and the ratification of the UN Convention on Anti-corruption.
The current situation of corruption in the health sector, the wrongdoings and loopholes in the mechanisms and policies in the sector, initiatives, recommendations and solutions for the coming period to promote transparency and accountability in order to reduce and prevent corruption were high on the agenda of the Dialogue between the representatives from the Government of Vietnam and the Development Partners.
All the participants shared the same view that corruption in the health sector is a challenge to every one. The International Development Partners emphasised essential role of the civil society, the strong media, the need to have a combination of all efforts in the fight against corruption.
The Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Vietnam Mr Mark Kent said: “To effectively fight corruption, we need practical tools such as transparency, simplification of regulations. In addition, the media play an important role in the fight. Favourable conditions should be given to the media to report corruption cases. It is also necessary to enhance the role of the National Assembly and the People’s council as well as the civil society.”
The World Bank Country Director, Ms Victoria Kwakwa and the Asian Development Bank Country Director, Mr Ayumi Konishi also highlighted that the laws, regulations and policies are very important but not enough and that proper law enforcement, monitoring and supervision are even more important but the engagement of the civil society is essential.
In his conclusion of the Anti-Corruption Dialogue, the Ambassador of Sweden, Mr Rolf Bergman said that corruption can be fought at many levels and stages and that the most efficient and important way is to create integrity, transparency and accountability in the health sector by different means such as introduction and promotion of codes of conducts, whistle-blower protection, implementation of right procedures for procurement of medical equipment and drugs, adequate monitoring eliminate incentives for under-the-table payments and more.
Mr Rolf Bergman added: “The conclusion of this Dialogue is that big challenges are facing the Government of Vietnam in its combat against corruption in the health sector but international experience prove that obstacles can be overcome with a combination of firm political commitments and involvement of the civil society. A combination of activities will lead to the success.”
Anti-Corruption Dialogue between the Government of Vietnam and its Development Partners is held regularly twice a year prior to the Consultative Group Meeting for Vietnam. Recommendations and solutions put forth at the Dialogue will be presented at the Consultative Group Meeting to be held in early December.