The public administration reform (PAR) programme in Vietnam was officially launched in January 1995, focusing on reforms of administrative institutions, of the government machinery, and on the development and training of civil servants. By 2003, it is recognised that overall the reform process has been slow and that intended outcomes have not been achieved. However, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), a decentralised level of the government of Vietnam, stands out as an innovative and relatively successful reforming local authority. This article analyses PAR in the city relating to administrative restructuring, civil service reform, public services delivery, quality standards, and financial decentralisation. It is suggested that success in this case may be attributed to the degree of local government involvement in the reform process, a lesson that has wider application both in Vietnam and elsewhere.