National Single Window: Breakthrough in Administrative Reform

9:27:46 AM | 29/6/2020

The deploying of the National Single Window (NSW) mechanism helps businesses reduce time and costs to settle most procedures as compared to the traditional form, some administrative procedures recorded 93% less expense.

The Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), the General Department of Vietnam Customs under the Ministry of Finance, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Vietnam recently announced the survey on “Business satisfaction and time needed to carry out administrative procedures through the National Single Window”. The survey was made from feedback from nearly 3,100 businesses dealing with 12 administrative procedures - most frequently implemented public service through the NSW - in the last 12 months, dated from the launch of the survey (late November 2019). This effort aimed to promote trade facilitation for enterprises to conduct export and import administrative procedures.

According to the survey, most basic functions on the NSW are currently working well. The rates of respondents that rated easy/relatively easy to carry out basic features such as “account creation and login” and “view and print records” are 95% and 93%, respectively. Up to 93% and 89% of enterprises rated easy/relatively easy to implement “records management” and “view and print licenses/certificates” features.

Basically, the NSW has positively reduced time and costs for settling administrative procedures for businesses. The NSW system has recorded positive changes in many aspects of service time for administrative procedures and service personnel for these. Up to now, the system has carried out 198 procedures on a total of 250 and connected 13 ministries and agencies. It has completed more than 3 million records filed by more than 39,000 enterprises, helping facilitate trade and improve national competitiveness. As for customs clearance, the service time has been reduced by 7-8 days. The value of saved expense amounted to more than US$4.55 billion (VND106.9 trillion). Administrative personnel in nine out of 12 companies decreased by half.

However, the survey also pointed out that a significant share of companies found it difficult to use the portal. Procedures provided by the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Science and Technology are said to be more difficult to be handled than those provided by other ministries and branches. In addition, 27% of respondents are not satisfied with the unstable operation of the NSW due to connection errors while about 20% of businesses complained about slow responses on the system.

Besides, 26% of companies encountered trouble with “import quality check” procedure. 34% and 29% of respondents respectively found it hard to deal with “granting import license for medical equipment” procedure and “granting the receipt number of the announcement paper for imported cosmetic products” procedure provided by the Ministry of Health. And, a meaningful rate of enterprises saw positive progress in implementing procedures provided by the Ministry of Health on the National Single Window as compared to the old one.

Mr. Dau Anh Tuan, Director of Legal Department, VCCI, said, existing difficulties are largely attributed to the service system of joining ministries and agencies which are reportedly not completely electronic. Some applicants are requested to modify their records for many times, while ministries and agencies spend relatively much time processing dossiers submitted by some enterprises.

From what they have experienced with the NSW, companies recommended that ministries, branches and agencies accelerate electronic payment, remove difficulties for enterprises in using digital signatures, upgrade Q&A functions, and provide some additional utilities to support businesses on the portal.

Representing the research team, Mr.Tuan also recommended the necessity to deal with digital signature registration and use problems; upgrade Q&A functions to better help enterprises handle administrative procedures; and add value-added business support services.

Besides, they need to boost the development of a centralized information technology system for the NSW mechanism, technical upgrades and regular maintenance for the NSW to operate stably and speed up task handling and solving technical problems.

Mr. Tran Thanh Hai, Deputy Director of Import-Export Department, Ministry of Industry and Trade

The Ministry of Industry and Trade is one of the first three ministries to join the NSW but it has so far brought only 11 procedures to the system and has six more procedures to be connected.

The participation of ministries and agencies is necessary but the most important role is played by the NSW operator. The operator is like an axis and ministries and branches are spokes connected to it. We are totally ready. Basic procedures have been brought into the ministry’s public service portal but they have not worked as well as expected on the NSW.

The goal of the NSW is to facilitate businesses and ministries/agencies themselves. Nevertheless, information sharing among ministries and agencies through this mechanism has not been done so far, first of all from customs authorities. This important factor needs to be improved in the near future.

Economist Le Dang Doanh

The NSW’s procedural contribution is remarkable. However, the NSW needs to synchronize software and equipment among ministries and build a centralized information technology system to really help enterprises. Currently, each set of different software, even different technology vendor, is not fully compatible in execution.

In addition, single-window connectivity is a key point in international economic integration and in global competition. In the coming time, the NSW enforcement agency should focus on integration-related policies as Vietnam is about to enforce the EU - Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) with many stringent requirements for institutional synchronization to comply with international regulations.

In addition, periodic surveys are needed to make a basis for comparison with other countries in the region from which more suitable changes will be made.

Mr. Truong Van Cam, Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association

As the textile and garment industry has a huge export and import value, companies in this industry have to do a lot of procedures, especially those related to import and export. We have great expectations on the NSW mechanism. In fact, up to now, textile and garment companies have used the NSW a lot.

In the coming time, carrying out administrative procedures through the NSW needs to be smoother and more inclusive, especially in three important stages: Technology and equipment, personnel and law.

We have amended a lot of documents but many regulations are still complex, sometimes difficult to be implemented on the NSW. If companies still complain, more things will be done to make it perfect. Therefore, we believe that the engagement of all stakeholders is necessary for the NSW to operate effectively and smoothly.

Last but not least, the technology and equipment for the whole system need to be synchronized to work smoothly.

Mr. Nguyen Van Son, Chairman of Vietnam Pesticide Association

Pesticide producers and traders in Vietnam are regularly using in the national public service portal. However, many companies reportedly lack specific instructions and face many problems to be solved immediately. They have to carry out procedures again and again to complete. Therefore, we hope that this issue will be further improved.

Besides, we are concerned about document confidentiality. Securing information builds business confidence.

In addition, we expect that contributions and recommendations proposed by the report as well as remarks from delegates will be received, and competent authorities reply, as soon as possible.

Mr. Nguyen Tuong, Deputy General Secretary of the Vietnam Logistics Association

The single-window mechanism is an important step to reform administrative procedures by simplifying procedures, thereby raising the quality of public services concerning import and export activities while reducing administrative procedures and enhancing the competitiveness of the business community. Nonetheless, the single-window system must be made more stable and reliable. If the system breaks down when electronic declaration is being made, companies will have to solve the mess and spend more time, effort and cost to do it again.

Furthermore, a single form should be used. Ministries should try to give up paper records. If both electronic declaration and paper declaration are in place at the same time, it will be very cumbersome, complicated and costly for businesses.

Ms. Nguyen Thi Cuc, President of the Vietnam Tax Consultants Association

We and the business community appreciate the efforts of the Ministry of Finance in recent years, especially to reform tax, customs and insurance administrative procedures. This helps reduce the time needed for customs clearance or tax payment for businesses. However, the connectivity varies among ministries and agencies. Some have excelled this but some have not seriously cared about and made effort for the NSW.

Ministries and agencies should unify forms and paper and reduce requirements that lead to duplications and multiplications. What enterprises need most is the list of administrative procedures, the service time limit, record log and clear information for rejection.

By Thu Ha, Vietnam Business Forum