Since January, Transparency International’s Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres (ALACs) operating in 60 countries have received over 1,500 reports of corruption and other irregularities related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cases, from Italy to Venezuela to Ghana, describe bribery, favouritism, and other corruption acts witnessed by citizens in the delivery of humanitarian aid, the enforcement of restrictions on travel and movement, and in the provision of COVID-19 testing and treatment.
“COVID-19 is not just a health and economic crisis. It is a corruption crisis,” said Alison Matthews, ALAC Programme Manager at Transparency International. “And we’re seeing it hit those most vulnerable the hardest, including front-line health care workers. Governments are failing their citizens when corruption prevents people from accessing the support and services they need.”
In addition to documenting corruption at service delivery, tip-offs to ALACs have also revealed deadly cases of undue influence over the procurement of medical supplies. For example, in Russia, these reports triggered an investigation into government contracts, after a faulty ventilator procured from state-owned corporation Rostec, controlled by a close friend of the President, caused a fire in a St. Petersburg hospital that killed five COVID-19 patients.
“The corrupt have seized upon the COVID-19 crisis to line their own pockets at the expense of everyone else,” Daniel Eriksson, Managing Director of Transparency International, said. “But citizens have power in reporting corruption. By speaking out, they provide the evidence needed to pursue the corrupt, hold the powerful to account and advocate for real change. Together, we can demand transparent, responsive, and accountable government institutions.”
“Those seeking justice at our ALACs often do so as a last resort. Too often, government channels are ineffective or even unsafe for reporting corruption and those who have committed wrongdoing go unpunished,” Matthews continued. “Our job is to give these people hope and support them to speak up safely. Corruption will only stop when we work together to change the system.”