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Giving voice to 13,000 citizens: A unique survey in Viet Nam asks citizens about their experience of governance and public administration

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DSC 0629A face-to-face interview taking place in Dak Lak province in the Ede minority language, with the support of an interpreter June 2012 – With corruption a systemic problem in Viet Nam, a first-of-a-kind survey has asked people across the country what their experiences are of governance and public administration in the area they live.

The UNDP-supported Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI) is the largest-ever survey of its kind carried out in Viet Nam. For the 2011 index, more than 13,500 citizens were interviewed and asked about their experiences of and levels of satisfaction with provincial and local authority performance on governance and public administration reform.
“As incomes rise in Viet Nam and citizens are becoming more educated and healthier, they are also expecting and demanding better services from the government,” says Jairo Acuna-Alfaro, UNDP policy advisor and part of PAPI team.  

Yet reviews of governance and public administration reform are often ‘self-assessed’ and the actual users of public services have few opportunities to voice their opinions.

“The philosophy behind PAPI is to consider citizens as end users of the services provided by the public administration system, and as end users who are capable of monitoring and assessing governance and public administration,” Jairo explains.

“In a sense we are flipping the coin and providing a different kind of data to that which is usually available. This data can be used by provincial and local authorities to improve both legislation as well as implementation of existing legislation,” Jairo says.

The PAPI research offers a comprehensive picture of the current state of affairs of local governance in all 63 of Viet Nam’s provinces. It also provides extensive analysis of governance and public administration performance at the national level.

In addition, the PAPI research includes information on a range of issues affecting ordinary Vietnamese, including on land, health and education.

For instance, the research finds that a third of those surveyed said bribery is needed to receive medical care, almost a third that it is needed to get a job in the public sector, two in five that it is needed to apply for a land use right certificate and 17 percent that bribery is needed for children to get better treatment in schools.

The research is helping policy makers and the international development community better understand Vietnamese people’s experiences, and to draw concrete lessons on how to reduce corruption and improve citizen satisfaction with public administration.

For example, in 2010 Kon Tum province in central Viet Nam was ranked as one of the lowest performing provinces in the index. As a result, the provincial authorities decided to use the survey data and good practices from other provinces to develop an action plan to tackle corruption and informal payments and improve public services. This plan is now being implemented across the province.  

Since the launch of the 2011 survey in May 2012, there has also been extensive media coverage and discussion of the results. The media debate is continuing and this is helping to keep attention on the issues and problems raised, as well as the need to focus on solutions and actions.   

The PAPI survey looks at six different dimensions of provincial governance and public administration. This includes: (i) participation at the local level; (ii) transparency; (iii) vertical accountability; (iv) control of corruption in the public sector; (v) public administrative procedures; and (vi) public service delivery. The full report is available here.

PAPI is a joint policy research initiative implemented collaboratively between the Viet Nam Fatherland Front, the Centre for Community Support and Development Studies under the Viet Nam Union of Science and Technology Associations, the Commission on People’s Petitions under the Standing Committee for the National Assembly, and UNDP in Viet Nam.

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