In 2013, five civil society organizations (CSOs) in Vietnam namely ACDC, Center for Development and Integration (CDI), CECEM, CEPEW formed Budget Transparency and Participation (BTAP) coalition. During 2014-2015, the coalition proposed recommendations for amendment of the State Budget Law to improve transparency, accountability and participatory in state budget management through various advocacy efforts.
On 25 June 2015, the National Assembly of Vietnam has approved the amended State Budget Law with some major amendments on mechanism that make budget open and enhance citizens’ participation in budget process. Provisions in the law states more clearly in article 15 that requires (1) budget documents to be published including executive budget proposal (both at national budget and local budget and It is indicated this document should include both the data and narratives contents); (2) in year report and 6 month report to be publish no later than 15 days of the following period (3) state audit’s report and corrective measures and results of corrective measures (no later than 30 days after its issuance). Article 15 also provides channel to publish budget documents including announcing at regular sessions/meetings; posting in office of relevant agencies; issuing publications; sending official notice to relevant organizations and individuals; publicizing on web pages; informing about through the mass media. Article 16 provides that people have right to monitor budget issues including performance of budget execution and openness of budget (article 16). Article 16 of the amended budget law also provides for mechanism of feedback from community.
While all these details, basing on recommendations of the five CSOs, are newly included in the law, they are creating an essential foundation for further steps to enhance the transparency, accountability and participatory approach in fiscal issues. Future plans of Vietnam BTAP network will include exercising right to access information of people on state budget issues such as feedback and comments using citizen budget documents and enhance people’s participation in budget monitoring including of public investment. Some further pilot of citizen budget will be implemented at local government and social accountability will be practice in wider scope in terms of monitoring budget spending at local level.
In September 2015, the Global Index on Open Budget Index will be luanched and this will be important benchmark index for Vietnam to compare with other good practice to enhance open budget in practice. Further support to BTAP coalition and CDI will be continued by International Budget Partnership.
On 12 May 2015, the Center for Development and Integration, the provincial People's Committee and the Women's Union of Quang Tri’s province have organized the launching workshop of the project "Promoting transparency and the participation of citizens in state budget management ". The project is financed by the European Union through Oxfam. Attending were Mr. Nguyen Duc Dung, Deputy Chairman of the provincial People's Committee.
The overall objective of this project is to increase transparency, accountability and participation of people in managing the state budget; namely empowerment of civil society organizations, community organizations locally to impact directly to the budget planning for the operation of the development and poverty reduction programme; and indirect impact on the relevant legal provisions.
A notable result of the project was that the People's Committees at commune to provincial level to create space for civil society organizations and community-based organizations to be involved in a practical way in the process of building the state budget and budget oversight of poverty reduction and development programmes, including health issues.
This project will be implemented for 3 years, from now until 2018 with a total budget funds 810,000 Euros for both Quang Tri, Hoa Binh province and the central agencies. The project’s goal is to raise awareness and participation in the activities of the project for over 6,000 women, the poor, ethnic minorities... The project was implemented by the implementing agencies such as the Center for Development and Integration (CDI); Center for Community Capacity Building (CECEM); Action Centre for Community Development (ACDC); People's Council of Quang Tri province and the Women's Union of Quang Tri province.
Speaking at the conference, Mr. Nguyen Duc Dung, Deputy Chairman of the provincial People's Council acquired the opinions requiring the Project Management Committee, the People's Committee and Women's Union at provincial and communal level to enhance accountability while performing the implementation in Gio Linh and Hai Lang district; and to have good staffing and time management to implement the proposed plan; mobilize local people to understand and support the project.
The effective implementation of the project will empower civil society organizations, community organizations to directly impact the budget estimations for the operation of programs to reduce poverty, development and indirect impact on the law and the relevant decrees.
On 15.04.2015, the sharing program "Taxpayers’ stories" was held in Hanoi.
Opening the program was the awards ceremony for the photo contest "Taxpayers’ view". The photo contest had been held on the Facebook group "Taxpayers” view photo contest" in six months from October 2014 to March 2015 to photos with content telling stories taking place at the localities concerning the state budget revenues and expenditures; using the budget; transparency of the budget at all levels; initiatives ensuring the participation of people in managing the budget, and effective budget management methods.
The contest received 351 photos by many authors with different ages and occupations in different regions across the country and reflects the multi-dimensional current situation in the use of the budget in many local budgets. The photos were recorded by individual devices of (cellphone, camera) and can help participants tell the stories about the use and management of budgets in many localities.
The contest’s first prize goes to "Who hears the taxpayers" by Truong Thanh Tung. The photo was shot on Kinh Duong Vuong street, Ho Chi Minh City, as a person wading through flooded streets with a slogan about listening to the taxpayers up above. The runner-up is “T2 Terminal - Noi Bai airport” by Nguyen Duc Thanh. The photo "On the same plane nothing in common" by Pham Kim Thoa won third prize. Many other outstanding works entered the finals were also displayed at the photo exhibition.
The program was followed by the presentation of solutions and initiatives to promote openness and transparency, accountability and participation of people in managing the state budget, which is funded by the European Union.
These are initiatives to concretize the recommendations that have been accepted in the new draft of the Law on budget amendments. These include:
- Ranking of the provinces in the publicity of state budget draft, based on the provisions of the Law on the content, form, and time of the publicity.
- Establish transparent budget model with the full participation of citizens in the budget process. Pilot publicity portfolio of public investment projects to be voted for prioritiy by the people, get the consent of people before approving the planned budget, and do Social Auditing for public services.
- Award "Youth accompanies the state budget" for small projects by youth groups carried out to increase the participation of the community, especially youth, to manage local budgets .
- Campaign TODOCABI of the youth to mobilize 100,000 people to be interested and supporting the process of amendment to update the budget law.
Ending the morning program was the talk "The participation of people in managing the budget" with the guests: member of Parliament Mr. Duong Trung Quoc; Prof. Dr. Dang Hung Vo; Mr. Nguyen Minh Tan, representative of Finance – Budget Department, Office of the National Assembly; participants coming from Quang Tri, Hoa Binh and representatives of Budget Transparency group. The guests presented many interesting and multi-dimenstional ideas, sharings and solutions that help enhance the participation of people in managing the budget.
The program was followed by constructive network discussion "Promote transparency and the participation of citizens in budget management" between civil society groups working on this issue in the afternoon.
On 12/30/2014, at Lakeside Hotel, Hanoi, the workshop on "Recommendations to revise the draft State Budget Law", organized by CDI and Mining Union, took place with the participation of representatives from various agencies interested in this topic.
The seminar aims to provide updates on amendment orientation of the draft State Budget Law from the last session of Congress, and provide additional information and evidence on the impact of transparency to effectively management and using of state budget.
Ms. Ngo Thi Minh Huong, Director of CDI held the opening speech. Followings were the presentation "The basic contents of the draft State Budget Law" from expert Pham Dinh Cuong, Ministry of Finance; and "Orientation for revision of the draft State Budget Law and contents need further consideration" from MA. Nguyen Minh Tan, Deputy Director, Department of Finance - Budget, Office of the National Assembly. After a heated discussion, the workshop continued with the presentation "The impact of publicity of state budget to effectiveness of management and use of the budget from mining - case study in Thai Nguyen," from Mr. Nguyen Dinh Hoa and "Management and use of state budget in the medical sector" from Mr. Tran Vu Hoang, representative of Medical Union.
The workshop ended successfully with many comments from different parties on the contents of publicity, transparency, accountability and participation of the people in the draft State Budget Law; at the same time also provided participants with multiple perspectives on the impact of transparency to effectively management and use of the budget in the various sectors of society.
In the framework of the project “Strengthening accountability for sustainable development” funded by Oxfam Hongkong, on December 23rd 2014, the workshop “Sharing on applying the social accountability tools to strengthen accountability and promote sustainable development” was successfully organized by CDI, in cooperation with Quang Tri Department of Planning and Investment.
The workshop welcomed 90 representatives from local authorities, mass organizations and departments of all levels, as well as representatives from local people in Quang Tri province.
The workshop aimed at reviewing all the activities implemented in 2014, and sharing the experience on applying Citizen Report Cards (CRC) and Social Audit (SA).
2 reports were given in the workshop including “Report on public service assessment using CRC tool in Dakrong district” and “Report on assessment of public investment using SA tool in Hai Lang district”.
After the presentation onthe assessment process and findings, participants who are members of local authorities, departments, organizations; relevant service providers, management agencies; and representatives from core assessment groups and local people, gave their comments and reflection about the methodology, effectiveness and the ability to apply and disseminate the 2 assessment tools. CRC and SA were recognized as new but effective tools to strengthen the transparency and accountability. All the findings and recommendations given by assesment groups provide local authorities as well as service providers and management agencies with better awareness on local situations and move them to take action. Participants also hope that these tools will be applied in M&E process in localities.
At the end of the workshop, Mr. Nguyen Huy - Deputy Director of Quang Tri Department of Planning and Investment recognized all project results and findings. He expressed his sincere thanks to all participants and closed the event.
Vietnam is a one-party state and central planning system in which budget issues are often dealt with as state issues. Vietnam’s ranking on OBI, currently 19, has only improved slightly over time and did not achieve the average international ranking until 2012. Public participation in the budget process is limited by institutional and procedural settings. Where there is limited citizen access to public information people cannot hold government accountable for managing public resources.
The role of civil society, including NGOs, has been increasingly recognised in facilitating development processes, including the practice of participatory monitoring and promoting of accountability. Social audits have become more familiar to people and have enhanced the thirst for knowledge; they broaden the space for grass roots democracy. At the threshold of Vietnam’s new amended constitution, in late 2012, where the government was asked to makeinstitutional reforms on openess, and to recognise citizen rights to information, a civil society group formed a coalition to advocate for open budgets.
Five civil soceity organisations (CSOs) - Oxfam in Vietnam, ACDC, CDI, CECEM, CEPEW – engaged the law making process relating to open budgets, transparency and accountability. Three laws are prioritised. The first two are Laws on Public Investment and State Budget, which Government wishes to amend to reform transparency requirements. A third law covers access to information with which Government is attempting to engage. The CSO’s approach is to bridge the gap between citizens and Government, to bring voices and participation of people into policy making.
Claims by citizens for their ‘right to know’ - regarding public investment and public spending - are expressed to law drafting committees, parliament and media. This suggests a stronger encoding of transparency mechanisms in the law. Stories inform and have power. Stories that cover how budgets arespent in local communities and how people participate in decision making; and how, where there is public participation, there is more efficient use of resources. These stories have strong implications for law makers. As a result of the coalition’s first advocacy effort, Law on Public Investment, passed on June 2014, has been made with clearer encodement of transparency and openess. As Vietnam is still making only slow progress in open budgetting and the right to know, further efforts will be made to engage larger segments of the society to ally with civil socity groups to demand changes in budget law and access to information law. CSO group also continue to call for government to publish budget documents in line the global good practice on transparency and openness.
Since January 2011, CDI commenced a two-year project with extension possibility in Dak Mil District of Dak Nong province (Central Highlands of Vietnam). The project aims to increase local accountability and good governance in order to ensure effective delivery of the targeted poverty reduction program and other social services.
From July 2011, CDI and its partner Australian Foundation for the Peoples of Asia and the Pacific Ltd and Da Bac district of Hoa Binh province commenced the project on “ Ensuring accountability of local government for redistributive policies and national in Socio-Economic Development Plan”. The project will lead innovative practice for Vietnam in terms of larger scale engagement by civil society with government. In terms of approach, AFAP and local partners would largely draw from their past experiences and propose to adopt governance key tools to enrich the program: these are (i) Advocacy and Citizen Voice;(ii) Public Dialogue;(iii) Tracking of Budget and Expenditures; (iv) Monitoring and Evaluating Public Services Delivery.