Covid-19 Significantly Affects Public Administration Performance

2:10:41 PM | 5/13/2022

Thua Thien - Hue province rose to the top of the PAPI 2021 ranking nationwide, scoring 48,059 points. Binh Duong province ranked second with 47,178 points and Thanh Hoa ranked third with 47,102 points.

According to the Report on the Vietnam Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI) 2021 released by the United Nations Development Program in Vietnam (UNDP), among five centrally governed cities, Hanoi scored 44,447 points; Hai Phong, 44,005 points; Da Nang, 42,557 points; Can Tho points, 41,230; and Ho Chi Minh City, the lowest with 40,677 points. This result partly reflected the heavy impacts of the prolonged social distancing in response to the fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak in Ho Chi Minh City.

PAPI 2021 ranked the governance and public administration performance of 63 provinces and cities across the country. In 2021, PAPI was made from surveys of 15,833 respondents (the largest sample size since 2009). PAPI 2021 measured eight content indicators, including: Participation at local levels, publicity and transparency in decision making, vertical accountability to the people, control of corruption in the public sector, public administrative procedures and public service delivery, environmental governance, and electronic governance.

Compared to the results of 2020, as many as 30 provinces and cities went up in public service delivery, environmental governance and e-governance. However, 30 localities had a decrease in participation at local levels, publicity and transparency in local decision-making, vertical accountability to the people, and control of corruption in the public sector.

Leading localities are concentrated in the northern region. In contrast, most of the poorest performers are in the Central Highlands, the South Central Coast and Mekong Delta.

PAPI 2021 reported that the COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected the performance of the government apparatus in many aspects in 2021 and influenced many PAPI indicators. For example, residents appreciated improvements in some aspects of basic infrastructure and local security and order as demonstrated by a higher level of satisfaction with road quality, access to water, garbage collection as well as fewer crimes such as theft, break-in and robbery than before. Social distancing and mobility restrictions to fight the pandemic helped improve security and order conditions. In addition, increasing public investment in basic infrastructure upgrading was an approach adopted by many local governments during the pandemic period.

Regarding land, COVID-19 was attributed to reducing the need of acquiring residential and agricultural land for more economic development and investment projects. The second year of the COVID-19 pandemic with the wave of Delta strain in Vietnam generated more critical attitudes towards the health sector, with declining levels of satisfaction with services provided by public district hospitals.

In addition, the Vertical Accountability Index decreased sharply between 2019 and 2020. This decline was attributed to the failure of local authorities to process a large number of petitions filed by people concerning support and response policies on COVID-19 in 2021.

However, COVID-19 is not a factor affecting all aspects of governance and public administration in 2021. Indicators less directly related to the pandemic also tended to change worryingly. For example, regarding the control of corruption in the public sector, 2021 was the first year since 2015 to see a slight decrease in the score of effective control of corruption given to people to local authorities. Similarly, although land acquisition decreased, publicity and transparency of district land-use plans and provincial land price lists also weakened. Requirements and standards for land information disclosure in these two areas should be consolidated in the revised Land Law 2014 to enhance the effectiveness of legal regulations on access to land information which plays an important role in people’s lives and livelihoods. The decline of “Publicity and transparency in decision-making” and “Control of corruption in the public sector” might be correlated with a decrease in public confidence in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021. Therefore, improving publicity and transparency and resisting corruption are important to help strengthen public trust in government.

Ms. Cherie Russell, Development Counselor, Australian Embassy in Vietnam, said, the PAPI survey plays an important role in Vietnam, helping governments at all levels to improve decision-making, policy-making and public service delivery based on reliable data on public experiences. In the context that Vietnam aspires to become a high-middle-income country and aims for a high-income economy, it is extremely important for governments at all levels to understand people's wishes, and promptly transform and improve their policies based on citizen feedback.

Mr. Nguyen Huu Dung, Vice Chairman of the Central Committee of the Vietnam Fatherland Front, said, the PAPI Index has helped promote accountability to people at all levels of government, facilitating renovation and creativity in the public sector for the goal of "benefiting the people" in addition to the goals of "people know, people discuss, people do, people check" in implementing grassroots democracy. This is also the spirit of the draft law on grassroots democracy to be discussed at the National Assembly this year.

By Quynh Anh, Vietnam Business Forum