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Throughout the world, corruption in vital service sectors such as the health or education system undermines public policies aimed at assuring equitable development.

In Vietnam, corruption in the health and education sectors has been identified as a crucial issue by both the authorities and the public at large. The Vietnamese Government and the international donor community extensively discussed corruption in the education and health sectors at the 6th and 7th Anti-Corruption Dialoguesrespectively (November 2009 and May 2010). Discussions demonstrated that there is considerable concern about the problems of a lack of transparency, conflicts of interest, abuse of power, and unethical behavior in both the education and health system.

Corruption in the Education Sector

© flickr/izahorsky

Entrenched corruption in Vietnam’s education sector threatens to jeopardise the impressive improvements the country has witnessed over the past five decades in its rising literacy and enrolment rates. Despite the Government’s recognition of the seriousness of corruption in education and the introduction of a number of directives, decrees and campaigns to eradicate it, corruption in the education sector continues to lack the appropriate level of attention and is often regarded as a social phenomenon rather than being recognised as a genuine form of corruption. This illustrates that better analysis is clearly needed to enhance understanding of what corruption really means in the education sector.

Towards Transparency has worked with a team of independent researchers from the Central Institute of Economics Management (CIEM) to provide an overview of the types, causes and impact of corruption in the education sector.

The first report drew on in-depth interviews with a number of teachers, parents and school administrators in Hanoi and its suburbs, and research from surveys and press reports. It found that, according to public perception, the main forms of corruption in the Vietnamese education sector include:

  • Corruption in the building of schools and classrooms, the provision of teaching supplies and printing of school books
  • Payment of bribes by schools and teachers in exchange for awards and titles recognising false achievements and credentials
  • Collection of financial allowances by principals for untaught classes
  • Payment of bribes by teachers to school officials for allocations to teach ‘desired’ classes
  • Payment of bribes by students and parents to obtain good marks and enrolment in desired schools and classes
  • Effective coercion of students to pay for extra classes by discriminating against students who do not
  • Misappropriation of money intended for students
  • Collection of additional unauthorised money from students and parents.

Causes of corruption in the Vietnamese education sector include:

  • Weak institutional accountability associated with an ‘asking-giving’ culture and poor management by regulatory agencies
  • Insufficient legal system stifled by loopholes and contradictions
  • Lack of whistleblowing culture in denouncing corruption in the education sector
  • Poor pay for teachers
  • Limited public participation in the monitoring, supervision and management of schools
  • Lack of transparency in the allocation and utilisation of resources.

Corruption in the education sector threatens to raise the cost of educa­tion, increase the dropout risk among poorer families, and lower the standard of education.

For more information:

Preparation for the second phase of research on corruption in the education sector is currently underway.

To find out more on this topic, read the:

  • TI Working Paper on Corruption in the Education sector (Vietnamese)

Informal Payments in the Health Sector

© flickr/DP/

In Vietnam, corruption in the health sector has been identified as a crucial issue by the authorities and by the public at large. According to TI's 2010 Global Corruption Barometer, Vietnamese urban citizens perceive the health sector to be the 3rd most corrupt institution, with 29% of people who had contact with medical services in the past year reporting that they paid a bribe. The Government has since committed to prioritising the health sector in its anti-corruption efforts.

Nonetheless, more evidence-based analysis of the concrete forms and patterns of corruption in the health sector is currently needed to properly inform policy actions.

Towards Transparency has worked with national (the Research and Training Centre for Community Development) and international experts (from Boston University) to undertake a qualitative study of informal payments, including money or gifts exchanged during the process of receiving health care services.

Over 170 doctors, nurses, patients and other health related professionals were interviewed across four geographic provinces in Vietnam: Ha Noi, Son La, Dak Lak and Can Tho.

The research finds that offering cash directly and cash in envelopes are the most common ways of making informal payments in health services. Values of envelope payments vary greatly between lower and higher-level hospitals as well as between rural and urban health facilities, ranging from 50,000 VND (2.50 USD) to 5,000,000 VND (250 USD).

Although most services providers surveyed considered informal payments to be given voluntarily, about half of the interviewed patients said they gave money or in-kind gifts because it is the common behaviour of others and one third of the patients reported that health service providers sometimes extort payments in subtle ways.

Patients report giving informal payments in order to help gain access to care or improve the quality of care; to ensure the availability of supplies or transfer to a higher-level hospital; or just to avoid shame (in front of peers who have paid). For health workers, reasons given for accepting informal payments are overwhelmingly to increase their low official salaries, and in some cases to expand social relationships or simply to avoid embarrassment for patients.

Informal payments were found to erode the patient’s belief, respect and trust in the health system and creating internal conflicts within a health facility.

Recommendations from the research include:

  • Strengthening the capacity of primary healthcare facilities to reduce overload
  • Improving independent supervision and sanctions for health workers who accept informal payments
  • Increasing financial and non-financial remuneration for health workers
  • Establishing an independent system to supervise the quality of health services
  • Improving patient awareness of their rights and knowledge of official fees

The research aims to understand perceptions, forms, patterns and the impact of informal payments in Vietnam and to identify approaches to limit such practice in the country’s health services.

For more information:

Towards Transparency and Transparency International are now working with key stakeholders to reduce informal payments in health services.

On 6 June 2012, Towards Transparency in collaboration with RTCCD held a workshop to discuss the research findings and identify concrete solutions. The workshop was attended by more than 50 health policy makers, managers and representatives from civil society and the media who actively shared their personal experience