News in Hoi An Ancient Town

Hoi An’s people fight corruption

After retirement, Mrs. Le Thi Nguong, 64 in Tan An ward, Hoi An City, Quang Nam province, spent a lot of time working in the supervisory board of public investment of her ward.

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Mrs. Le Thi Nguong at a kiosk in Tan Thanh kiosk.

Her job is to monitor the implementation of public projects using state capital in the area such as roads, markets, cultural houses ... to ensure the compliance with technical and material norms.

Scheduled to open this year, Tan Thanh kiosk, with a total investment of VND2.6 billion ($130,000), had several problems in the construction process.

Nguong said: "When I came to check, looking up, I saw some substandard beams, which were concave in the middle. I asked some men who are experienced at construction to climb up to inspect and they confirmed my concern. I had to check up to three times, asked the investor and the consultant to verify then the contractor accepted to change the beams."

"The most difficult thing is to convince the investor and the contractor to fix such mistakes. I do not like big words, just saying that the work is at the heart of the people, with great value, if there is any problem occurring later, it will affect the management board and the ward authorities," she said.

"My viewpoint is that if anything wrong is detected, it should be fixed immediately, not waiting for until the work is completed because it would cause loss for the state budget and the contractor. In case the investor does not cooperate, I have to call to the city authorities," Ngung added.

After retiring from business in 2009, Nguong has participated in the community building monitoring committee of Tan An ward. She has supervised many construction works, including Nguyen Cong Tru and Le Hong Phong roads, which she said “to be the best works in the city so far.”

To detect technical errors in public works, she mainly relied on personal recognition. But that "personal feeling" was a little different in 2012, after she participated in a training course on supervisory skills held by the Quang Nam Provincial Inspectorate.

Through seminars and exchanges, Nguong had more knowledge about construction expertise, technical parameters, drawings, financial expertise, knowledge of land management, planning ... Besides, supervisors like Nguong can also call the hotline of the provincial Inspectorate to ask for assistance anytime.

The winning project

The idea of tightening relations with the people of the Quang Nam Provincial Inspectorate is actually the project "Capacity building of the community investment monitoring board," which was shortlisted in the 34 projects winning the "Vietnam Anti-corruption Initiatives 2011," referred to as VACI. This program was jointly held by the Government Inspectorate and the World Bank (WB), with the support of the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Australian International Development Agency, the Canadian Embassy, the Embassy of Denmark and the Finnish Embassy in Vietnam.

With total funding of VND290 million ($14,000) from the World Bank and other donors, Quang Nam Province Inspectorate has implemented the above operations at 41 supervisory boards of 41 communes, wards and townships in Nui Thanh, Phu Ninh and Hoi An (of the total of 244 communes and ward in Quang Nam), with the number of supervisory board members up to 200 people. Notably, supervisors must not have any relationship with the chairs of communes, wards or the contractors.

For the benefit of the community

Notably, with VND290 million, the provincial inspectorate could only spend VND2 million per year for a supervisory board. The Hoi An City People's Committee granted an additional VND3 million for each board.

The funding of VND5 million per year for a supervisory board with 5-7 people, even up to 11 people, was too modest. But the biggest concern of the supervisors is lacking construction expertise to supervise construction works. Then a training course on construction and supervisory skills was organized for supervisors.

Some senior supervisors, for example Mr. Mai Trinh (Tan An ward) or Mr. Nguyen Van Mai (Cam Chau ward) said the main motivation to persevere with their supervisory role is for the benefit of the community. They are also supported and facilitated by their families to do this job.

"If I’m still elected, I will continue this task, unless I’m sick," Nguong said.

According to Mr. Phan Viet Cuong, chief inspector of Quang Ngai province, the biggest profit from this project is that timely information from the supervisory boards can help the provincial Inspectorate to quickly inspect public projects.

Hoi An City Chairman, Mr. Le Van Giang, said that in fact, big public works are vulnerable for corruption. The operation of community supervision boards can help prevent corruption at these projects.

In Hoi An, community supervisors oversee the survey, project planning and construction because without strict supervision, the investor and contractor can set up unnecessary works, causing losses.

Hoi An is currently interested in the operation of community supervision board, with members who are responsible and objective. Many of them are very enthusiastic with the task and most of them are retired people, who work for free. However, their knowledge in construction, finance ... is limited.

Ms. Victoria Kwa Kwa, WB Country Director, once said: "The anti-corruption initiatives help us to believe that although corruption is a serious problem, you can still do it and we still have the light on the long way."