Vietnam scores low for budget transparency as public participation remains 'limited'

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A graphic image of the global Open Budget Index 2015. The dark red color indicates "scant or none" budget transparency levels. A graphic image of the global Open Budget Index 2015. The dark red color indicates "scant or none" budget transparency levels.

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Scoring only 18 out of 100 on an open budget index compiled by the International Budget Partnership, Vietnam's budget transparency is deemed "scant" and far below the world average score of 45.
The performance is slightly worse than that of 2012, when the country scored 19, according to the organization's latest biennial Open Budget Survey, which examined 102 countries around the world this year.
A total of 109 indicators are used to assess whether a central government makes eight key budget documents available to the public in a timely manner, and whether the documents' content is comprehensible and useful.
In its new findings, the organization said over the past two years, Vietnamese government has increased the availability of budget information by making it comprehensible to the public and improving the comprehensiveness of its in-year reports.
However, the government has failed to make the executive's budget proposal available to the public, it said.
Vietnamese government is also said to have not produced decent mid-year reviews, as its six-month budget implementation reports do not include revised macro-economic assumptions or fiscal estimates for the rest of the year.
Many other Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines outperform Vietnam with scores of 59, 42, and 64, respectively.
New Zealand has the highest score, followed by Sweden and South Africa.
Limited citizen participation
Vietnam's budget transparency index in comparison with some other countries in Asia. Photo credit: International Budget Partnership
When it comes to providing taxpayers with opportunities to engage in the budget process, Vietnam falls in the group of countries with limited public participation, with a score of 42, according to the survey.
As one of two critical institutions in overseeing the state budget, Vietnam's legislature plays an adequate role during the stage of planning budget. However, its oversight is limited during the implementation stage, said the International Budget Partnership, an independent research organization working with civil society organizations.
The legislature, known as the National Assembly in Vietnam, does not have a specialized budget research office, even though it maintains a committee for finance and budget tasked with analyzing budget, it said.
Moreover, the government is not required to consult the legislature before spending contingency funds that are not identified in enacted budgets, it added.
The country's top audit institution has an adequate role in overseeing state budget, scoring 75 out of 100.
Under Vietnamese laws, the State Audit Office of Vietnam has significant discretion to undertake audits as it sees fit, and has certain independence, considering that its chief cannot be removed without legislative or judicial approval, the organization said in its findings.
However, regardless of sufficient resources to fulfill its mandate, the state audit has a "weak" system for assuring quality, it said.

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