National Assembly developing systematic oversight of national budget

Published: 21/03/2010 05:00



The Vice Chairman of the NA’s Committee for Finance and Budget told VietNamNet that individual deputies should be allocated funds to investigate the Government’s spending.

Deputy Trinh Huy Quach, 56, was born in Hung Yen province and has been a Party member since 1986.

Quach’s an economist and a PhD. Though he represents mountainous Bac Kan province in the legislature, he lives in Hanoi. He was first elected to the NA in 2002 while he was the chief of the Assembly Secretariat’s Economics-Budget Department and secretary to the NA Chairman.

VietNamNet: For some time now, the national budget has been made public for National Assembly (NA) review, and in 2007 a Committee on Finance and Budget was established. You’re its vice chairman. How has the NA supervised budget spending?

Deputy Trinh Huy Quach: We’ve achieved some results in the budget area. Our reports have been highly appreciated by many deputies, because their economics is sound, opinions are clearly expressed and the data is good. They are good sources of information for deputies.

For instance, at the 6th session of the current National Assembly, the budget deficit predictions of the Government and the NA’s Committee for Finance and Budget were different. A survey showed that 75 percent of deputies agreed with our estimate. The NA Standing Committee instructed us to seek a harmonized plan.

VietNamNet: The field of finance and budget requires accurate data but your committee has only 35 members. How do you manage?

Quach: The number of people is important but the organization of our activities and the skills of participants are more important.

The NA’s operation relies on information provided by the Government that’s verified by sources such as the State Audit Agency. We aim to make sure that the information supplied to the NA must be sufficient, timely and well verified.

VietNamNet: Does your committee collect information itself?

Quach: The NA also has its own channels of information, such as the media, our constituents and independent experts. That’s especially helpful in case that the Government is slow to provide information. In many cases, we have received necessary documents from the Government just one day before supervisory meetings.

In such cases, without the NA’s own sources of information, deputies wouldn’t have time to read all documents, let alone do other things.

It’s important that, in addition to increasing the number of full-time deputies, the legislature’s committees need to expand the network of freelance consultants we can call upon. We need a regular way to invite expert testimony and collect the voters’ opinions.

VietNamNet: Is your committee able to look deeply into the budgets of ministries and sectors, such as the health and education sectors?

Quach: We have tried to join with other NA committees to do this. Monitoring budgets must be systematic. We still have to find out how to make cooperation among committees most effective.

VietNamNet: You have said that it is necessary to have a financial policy for deputies. Could you explain what you mean?

Quach: For example, if a committee is allocated a budget for its operations, part of it should be allocated to deputies for their individual expenses. For example, deputies could hire experts and secretaries to use for each investigation, spending up to $2000 or 20 million dong a year for this.

This mechanism wouldn’t require any more funds, but would make more effective and flexible use of resources.

VietNamNet: You are very busy with the job at your committee. How do you manage your meetings with constituents in Bac Kan province?

Quach: Constituents are paying more attention to the NA’s activities. We have tried to make timely reports of their aspirations and opinions to the Government and related agencies in suitable forms, including the NA’s forums.

But I think that we need to change the way we meet with constituents, enabling deputies to directly meet with them. The group “electoral colleges” and other formal meetings aren’t very effective.

VietNamNet: Are you afraid that your Bac Kan constituents may say that they don’t see you speaking up much for them?

Quach: Each deputy should be aware of his responsibility to intervene with Government agencies on his constituents’ behalf, and and tell the constituents about the results.

I always try to mention my constituents’ aspirations in my speeches.

However, I think that besides my duties at the Committee for Finance and Budget, I need to spend more time to meet with my constituents to live up to their trust in me.

Le Nhung

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