Facilitative government must come from change in mindset

Monday, 2017-01-30 21:23:59
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NDO—In the New Year, Minister and Chairman of the Government Office Mai Tien Dung talks with Nhan Dan about how to build a helpful and incorruptible government, as well as the activities of the Prime Minister’s Working Group in the past year.

Minister Mai Tien Dung: I think Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s establishment of the Working Group is an innovative idea to realise his message of a helpful government whose words match its actions. The Working Group helps the Prime Minister with overseeing the implementation of tasks assigned to ministries, agencies and local authorities.
The Working Group has been in existence for only five months, but has seen positive changes with the proportion of overdue tasks falling rapidly. The Working Group has also spread the spirit of helpfulness and incorruptibility to officials at lower levels, compelling them to enhance their sense of responsibility and change their working style. The Working Group’s work is in fact supporting inspected agencies to remove difficulties and work out the best solutions. After working with local governments, the Working Group urged higher officials to deal with their suggestions.

When the Working Group visited Ho Chi Minh in October 2016, the city government suggested establishing a single agency in charge of food safety which was previously shared by many departments. This suggestion was reported to the Prime Minister, who later discussed it with the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Home Affairs to reach an agreement and quickly resolve the issue. And recently, the Prime Minister approved the establishment of an agency responsible for food safety under the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee. This is a new model.

The important thing is that during inspection tours, the Working Group noticed there were some discrepancies and delays in coordination between the Government Office and the ministries, agencies and local authorities. I think that when a government is helpful, the Government Office must also be helpful, responsible and dynamic. The PM has ordered the Working Group to be transparent and fair, which means it must be accompanied by the media when inspecting an agency so that they can supervise and publicise weaknesses. The Working Group wants to inspect central ministries and agencies, but also grassroots governments.

Q: Did you feel any pressure when the Working Group inspected and supervised ministries, agencies and local authorities?

A: The company of the media during the inspection tour is a kind of pressure, but it is not as strong as the fact that I, as a minister and member of the Party Central Committee, was inspecting others who are also ministers and members of the Party Central Committee. Many questioned why I inspected them when both are ministers. The strongest pressure is to make them understand that this is something done for the sake of the people and the nation. The difficulty is how to make them feel totally convinced. If members of the Working Group are not transparent and honest, this task of inspection is impossible.

The tasks assigned by the Prime Minister to ministers, leaders of agencies and provincial governments are monumental so the Working Group had to work in a way commensurate with their magnitude. The Working Group had to accurately assess what was happening and point out the correct reasons why the Government-assigned tasks were being delayed. At first it was very stressful, but then those inspected gradually came to realise the objective of the Working Group, that is working with them to help deal with a number of issues. The Working Group met regularly in the beginning of each month to review the previous month, draw lessons and outline what to do in the next month.

Q: After several months, what problems did you see in ministries, agencies and provinces you inspected and can the Working Group continue to exist?

A: I think when running an organisation, however small it is, the biggest shortcoming is implementing policies without adequate prodding and oversight, that is why the execution time is usually lengthened. When a conflict of interest arises but there is no prodding to deal with it, it will be difficult to fulfil the tasks efficiently.
I cannot foretell how long the Working Group will exist because society is changing continuously; we will lag behind if we cannot keep up. When doing our job, the Working Group found inappropriate mechanisms and policies, some of which are harder to implement than the old ones. If we do not work in the field and listen to the people and grassroots officials, we cannot find out what needs fixing. It is necessary to avoid introducing policies without anyone implementing them. The reality has shown that the Prime Minister’s idea of a helpful and incorruptible government has created confidence and hopes among enterprises. In the first eleven months of 2016, more than 100,000 enterprises were established.

Q: Can you tell us how institutions and policies will be formulated to build a helpful and incorruptible government?

A: Building a helpful and incorruptible is an evolving process. The government has adopted an action plan for 2016-2020. The government has also implemented Resolution 23 on socio-economic development and Resolution 19 on enhancing competitiveness. During government meetings, the PM stressed that this work is not something temporary. The government has promulgated the working regulations of the government and the Prime Minister. This is an innovative working style, inherited and developed from previous regulations.

The government innovates in favour of strong devolution and greater personal responsibility on the part of the PM, deputy PMs, ministers and other government members. The government is always ready to formulate resolutions to deal with unresolved legal documents. I believe that this is a change in the entire political system which must also become supportive and innovative. This is a change in mindset about the responsibility and positions of public servants.

I believe that the PM and members of the government will act aggressively to reform and innovate. The PM mentioned building a culture of resignation, where there is no tolerance for those who cannot work effectively but still retain their seats. The time in office is not important, the important thing is what one does during that time.

Q: Do you and other members of the government think of the vote of confidence when carrying out your tasks?

A: For me and other members of the government, who are assigned tasks by the Party and State, we have to work to best of our ability, not for the vote of confidence, because when we are doing our jobs, conflicts surely will arise. At the local level, officials with high confidence are sometimes those who work little with few collisions in order not to offend anyone. Those who dare to collide with others are the trailblazers. If you think about the vote when doing your jobs, you cannot accomplish your goals. So you have to work with all your heart and impartiality. You have to work with enthusiasm and aspirations.

Thank you very much.

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