There have been continual promises to trim the government payroll for years as part of efforts to curb the bureaucracy. But in reality, the central agencies continue to waste funds on wages for excessive vice heads.
It was recently revealed that Thanh Hoa Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has eight vice heads because two officials have just been promoted to deal with coming storm season. This violates Circular 14 issued in 2015 which states that departments should not have more than four vice heads.
The department's director Le Nhu Tuan said because of storm season, the workload would be heavier and because the province had such a large population, they needed more personnel so there was no problem.
Thanh Hoa Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Le Nhu Tuan
When being questioned that there were similar provinces like Thanh Hoa but only have two or three vice heads and their works were more efficient, Tuan said, "Could you please tell me how many vice heads the central departments have?"
Tuan opened a huge can of worms. It's true that many central agencies haven't acted as a role model for other parts of the country. Despite the circular, the number of vice heads at numerous agencies are double or triple the allowed number.
Previously agencies could have up to 15 vice heads and only three or four specialists on the government’s official website. During this time, it was explained that the many vice heads in the Government Office were necessary to deal with the leaders of localities. But now, being afraid of public's rage, the website only lists three to four vice heads while the actual number is much higher.
Many National Assembly deputies have questioned the prime minister and minister of home affairs about the bloated number of appointments and warned that if the central agencies couldn't act as a role model, how can they persuade other areas to follow suit?
Nguyen Thai Binh, former Minister of Home Affairs, admitted to NA deputy Bui Thi An in 2014 that promoting too many vice heads "is a waste of state budget, it makes the system clunkier and a source of tension with the public."
According to incomplete reports from 18 ministries and departments and seven government agencies in 2014, there were 96 directors of departments, 150 vice directors, 76 heads of offices and 17 deputy heads. By the end of 2015, the Ministry of Home Affairs said the amount of vice heads exceeded the allowed quota. The allowed number of vice director of ministries is four but the average amount in reality is 5.4. Similarly, the maximum number of vice heads at departments, divisions is three but the actual average number is 3.69.
Seeing that central agencies seem to have so many vice heads, other provinces and cities simply follow suit. The Department of Home Affairs in Thanh Hoa reported that the number of vice heads exceeds the allowed number by 53 people. Hanoi People's Committee also said they had 27 vice heads more than allowed.
As the number of vice heads increase, the state budget has to pay more for state cars, assistants and other fees. This is a burden for central agencies and causes even more difficulties for the poorer provinces.
It's unclear whether more vice heads will make work more efficient or whether there will be more overlapping responsibility? And what about political factions within a department? It's also reported in various agencies that it's time consuming to gather all vice heads for a meeting.
The fish rots from the head. We already have regulations but if the head can't follow the regulations then the rest of the body won't obey.