By Adam Turteltaub
The US State Department has a speaker’s program, and a while back I registered to participate in it.
When I travel outside the US for SCCE conferences and know I can free up some time, I let them know where I will be going. A year or so ago that led to me doing some talks in Mongolia while in the country for a compliance conference.
A few weeks ago, I received an email from the State Department asking if I might be available to come to Vietnam to speak. They had been asked by their contacts there if someone could address corruption issues.
They outlined the groups I would be speaking to, and, after some internal conversations here at the association, I said yes.
Everyone I know who has been to Vietnam in recent years comes back raving about how wonderful their experience was. I’m now one of those people. It’s remarkable to see the country’s energy, how far it has come and how welcoming they are to Americans.
It’s not all wine and roses, though. Vietnam also has a serious corruption problem. In 2018 it ranked 117 on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. The country is in the midst of a corruption crackdown, but it has a long way to go.
Over four days in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (the former Saigon) I spoke with the:
- Ho Chi Minh Academy of Politics (Hanoi and Saigon campuses)
- Vietnam National University Hanoi Law School
- National Academy of Public Administration
- Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- Foreign Trade University
- University of Economics and Finance, International University
I also gave talks at the American Centers, which are located at the consulates in both cities.
The Vietnamese business people, government officials, students and professors I spoke with were all very candid about the problem of corruption. They were also quite eager to learn more about compliance programs and how they might help. There was a healthy bit of skepticism expressed by some that anything could stem the corruption, but they were hopeful.
Vietnam will remain an opportunity and a challenge for compliance teams for many years to come, but it was encouraging to see the recognition that something needs to be done, and that compliance programs can be a part of the answer. I am hopeful that the SCCE and HCCA will be a part of the answer as well.