Public administration services in Vietnam, such as applying for land-use right certificates, acquiring personal documents like birth certificates or registering a business, are often slow and inefficient. Both citizens and businesses often experience delays, non-transparent procedures and requests for bribes from local officials.
According to the Viet Nam Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI) survey, most applicants received the paperwork they requested within 30 days after applying for it. However, the length of time varied greatly, ranging from just one day to almost two years. A third of the people surveyed also said that bribes were needed to obtain a land-use right certificate. Echoing this, an Oxfam baseline survey in Quang Tri province in 2014 found that 33 out of 435 citizens had paid a bribe of $20 to $300 for public administration services.
A citizen scorecard tool
In response to this, Oxfam has developed an innovative mobile phone scorecard tool (called M-Score) that enables citizens to score the performance of public administration services via their mobile phone. The tool allows citizens to voice their experience and helps local governments monitor public administrative services, providing information that can help to improve the quality, transparency and accountability of these services.
In areas where M-Score is used, a record is made of citizens’ mobile phone numbers when they are in touch with a local public administration office. Once the administrative procedure is completed, citizens are interviewed over the phone by an independent body on the quality of the service they received, how much time they had to spend to complete it and whether they had to pay a bribe. The survey data is then analysed by a research organisation. Every quarter a report is published that includes the most recent data and a series of recommendations from local people and stakeholders. Events are held to announce and share the results with the provincial government, media and citizens, and to start a discussion on how public administration services can be improved.
As part of M-Score, a hotline number has also been set up. Citizens can call the number to track the status of their documents, thereby saving time and money by only having to visit the local administration office once the documents are ready. In addition, citizens can use the hotline to provide feedback on the quality of the public services they have received.
A first of its kind
While citizen scorecards are becoming an increasingly important tool in Vietnam to improve public service delivery, M-Score is the first of its kind to use mobile phone technology. The tool complements traditional paper-based surveys by providing more regular updates and directly targeting people who have just completed a public administration service. It can also easily be replicated in other areas, such as education and health care.
M-Score helps local governments improve public administration services by providing real-time information on citizens’ experiences. It empowers local women and men by offering them a trustworthy tool to raise their voice about their experience of public administration, bureaucracy and corruption, and ensures their feedback is recorded and responded to.
M-Score has been implemented in Quang Tri province since October 2014, and there have already been a number of encouraging results. For example, the number of reported bribery cases has decreased significantly compared with the baseline survey. From June to August 2015, only 38 out of 1,242 citizens reported they had to pay a bribe, with the amounts ranging from $6 to $134.
The scorecard is being expanded to Quang Binh province in early 2016. The aim is for M-Score to be adopted by the central government and rolled out nationwide in 2018.
To ensure the success of M-Score, Oxfam is collaborating with a range of stakeholders. This includes provincial People’s Councils, academic institutions (including Indiana University and the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences), independent research bodies and companies
Project: Mobile phone scorecard to improve public service quality and control corruption
Location: Quang Tri and Quang Binh provinces
Time frame: 2014-2017
Funding: Oxfam core funding
e, Mekong Region Land Governance Programme, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands (second phase)