Walk the talk on level playing field, int'l organizations told

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International organizations should take the lead in showing they are serious about creating a level playing field as Vietnam amends its legal anti-corruption framework, two Scandinavian diplomats have said.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung recently approved a decision on the implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). Vietnam ratified the convention in June 2009.

By outlining several critical changes like proposing criminal action against corruption involving international agencies or the private sector, the decision is a major boost, said Danish Ambassador Peter Lysholt Hansen and his Swedish counterpart Rolf Bergman.

The decision envisages criminal action against the act of offering and taking bribes involving foreign officials of international organizations in Vietnam.

"Curbing corruption in Vietnam requires a legal framework covering all actors operating in Vietnam thus the inclusion of international organizations operating within the Vietnamese legal jurisdiction is sound," Peter Lysholt Hansen told Thanh Nien Weekly.

According to Hansen, in the process of gradual integration into the international economy and cooperation, the number and influence of international organizations operating in Vietnam has increased many-fold and creating a level playing field for integrity measures is a natural corollary of this process.

"International agencies have advocated establishing a level playing field [in Vietnam] for a long time. Now they have the chance to be at the vanguard by setting and enforcing internal integrity procedures."

Swedish envoy Rolf Bergman was quick to point out that the international bodies should be the first to take concrete action in this regard.

"In cases where corrupt practices have been detected involving international agencies in Vietnam, these agencies also have a responsibility to act. If deemed necessary it would mean pressing criminal charges, or other legal measures, against their own employees," Bergman said.

Loophole plugged

The two envoys also said that the criminalization of bribery and embezzlement in the private sector would play a significant role in removing a major legal loophole.

The anti-corruption measure enshrined in Vietnam's Law on Anti-Corruption is somewhat weak, the envoys said. Only one out of 93 articles in the law focuses on the business area and too much attention is paid to the public sector, they said.

"In light of Vietnam's stunning private sector growth, curbing corruption can only happen if the private sector is on board. So criminalization of bribery and embezzlement seems like a significant step forward and does accommodate the legal requirements of article 16 & 17 in the UN Convention Against Corruption," Hansen said.

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