Public servants caught playing hooky in central Vietnam

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The chief of Quang Binh Province's Party Unit conducted a surprise inspection last week, catching 15 employees of local agencies hanging out in local coffee shops during working hours.

The check was carried out in the morning of March 14 at seven coffee shops in Quang Binh's Dong Hoi Town, following accusations made by local residents and companies that they are routinely forced wait inordinately long to have their urgent administrative work processed.

A man requesting anonymity told Thanh Nien that people can only find certain officials at around 9 a.m., since they often have breakfast and drink coffee past the fixed break time, and also tend to head home early in order to go to the market or carouse about town.

He said colleagues of the hooky-playing public servants often provide all sorts of excuses for their absence, including that they are busy attending meetings, funerals or weddings.

Investigating a complaint about an official's alleged assault, a Thanh Nien reporter found that there were only three workers present at the office of the Duc Trach Commune People's Committee at around 10 a.m., despite posted working hours which said that the office did not begin its lunch hour until 11:30 a.m.

Luong Ngoc Binh, Quang Binh Party unit chief, confirmed the Thanh Nien account, adding that the problem only exists within a particular subgroup of officials.

Upon being caught red-handed doing nothing, the officials, embarrassed and afraid, confessed to their wrongdoings, according to Binh.

Since that was the first time BInh and his team undertook a surprise investigation, Binh issued only warnings, he said, adding that repeated offences would be reported in the media and subjected to punishment.

He also said he would conduct more spot checks in other parts of the province, and "strictly" punish violators.

"It is unacceptable that the officials who get paid by the government with public funds, but [spend time] lingering [outside their offices] like that."

While several officials reportedly trembled with fear when they heard about Binh's unexpected visit, many others were outwardly supportive of it.

"We are very pleased to hear about the inspection [of the province's Party chief] and hope that he will be more rigid [in dealing with such cases]," they said.

Dan Tri found there were few customers at several coffee shops in Dong Hoi during working hours on the morning of March 18. An unnamed coffee shop owner said that the number of officials coming to her place has gone down significantly since last week's surprise inspection. 

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in a government meeting last January that up to 30 percent of some 2.8 million public servants "do not bring any efficiency to their jobs," adding that leaders of ministries and government agencies need to make bold reforms within the public sector, where salaries are not based on merit, and recruitment continues to be plagued by corruption, according to a Lao Dong report.

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