Global corruption mapping shows graft continues to undermine preparedness for future pandemics

Corruption risks in health systems around the world were “raised significantly” due to inadequate preparation and the need for swift allocation of resources, overwhelming risk management systems, according to new research from Transparency International Global Health.

Rushed awarding of contracts stretched risk management and oversight capabilities to the brink, preventing people getting the health care they desperately needed.

The findings come ahead of global negotiations this month on a framework to prepare the world for future pandemics.

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that no country is immune to corruption. Graft undermined health emergency responses in high and low-income countries. States such as Canada and the United Kingdom, which score relatively highly on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, were among those affected.

Researchers mapped cases of corruption which played out across continents during the pandemic, ranging from supplier fraud to embezzlement to corrupt favouritism.

For instance, nepotism and favouritism in vaccine distribution was documented in Kenya, Canada, Peru, Argentina, Spain, Brazil, and Poland, where political leaders and wealthy individuals are alleged to have queue-jumped.

The study released today – Navigating Corruption and Promoting Transparency: lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic for future global health emergencies – outlines recommendations in four areas to inform planning for the next crisis:

– International Financing: Organisations including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and regional funding bodies should include anti-corruption provisions in all emergency financing agreements and embed transparency into their internal operations.

– Public Procurement: Governments should improve resilience to crises through pre-emptive stockpiling and more specific emergency legislation.

– Buying of Vaccines: International bodies should establish good practice for contract disclosure during emergencies.

– Vaccine Deployment: Governments should ensure adequate monitoring of key goods during emergencies and put in place measures to reduce opportunities for corruption.

Transparency International Global Health Director Jonathan Cushing said: “Our report brings the failings of emergency preparedness frameworks across countries and sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic into sharp relief. Our findings underscore the central role of integrity, accountability, and transparency in the effective management of health emergencies. Simply put, health systems and emergency preparedness frameworks will not work unless anti-corruption measures are fully integrated.”


Notes to editors

The upcoming meeting for the pandemic accord takes place from 17—21st July. It is the sixth meeting of the Inter-governmental Negotiating Body (INB) and a continuation of meetings of the drafting group.