COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerabilities in health systems and public service delivery throughout the world as myriad cases of misuse of public funds, lax contracting processes and maladministration have come to light.
The severe consequences of corruption are more tangible than ever before in the current COVID-19 crisis. Corruption hinders people from receiving medicine, vaccines, vital protection and treatment. It also deprives healthcare workers of the much-needed medical supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE).
Nurses and doctors lack access to surgical alcohol, let alone masks, gloves, protective gowns, and other essential medical supplies. Moreover, if the quality of procured PPE is compromised due to corruption, this puts health workers’ lives at risk as well as the lives of the people in their care.
In some cases, patients must pay bribes for PPE and COVID-19 tests, while whistle-blowers have lost their jobs after raising concerns about corruption and wrongdoing. In other cases, healthcare workers are being forced to work in unsafe conditions while corrupt networks profit from highly overpriced and lucrative government contracts and the unlawful and questionable sales of medical supplies.
The theme of Anti-Corrupton Day in 2020 focuses on COVID-19 recovery through corruption mitigation and emphasizes that inclusive COVID-19 recovery can only be achieved with integrity. It further reflects messaging from the Secretary-General’s statement on corruption in the context of COVID-19 which recognizes the need to continue to promote the full implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).
As safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19 become available, their deployment will be unprecedented in terms of global scale and complexity. The corruption risks include the manufacturing of substandard and falsified vaccines; unsecure storage and distribution systems; nepotism and favouritism in its distribution, allocation and identification of priority groups; and irregular procurement systems.
To RECOVER with INTEGRITY, these corruption risks should be identified and mitigated through increased oversight and transparency, which remain essential to address corruption in the procurement and distribution of PPE, and to help advance the equitable access of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to the populations, particularly for the most vulnerable and marginalized groups.