October 26, 2017
United Nations outlines devastating impact of corruption on global healthcare
By Sarah Harris-Steingrüber
A recent report from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health has explicitly highlighted that corruption in the health sector is a key barrier to achieving the 2030 agenda, as well as having a devastating impact on an international, national and local level. This supports the long-held view of Transparency International’s Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare Programme (TI-PHP) that corruption in the health sector is very much a matter of life and death.
The report makes a number of specific recommendations to states, urging them to address corruption through multiple ways, all of which TI-PHP strongly agree with. These include calling on states to:
- Implement the UN Convention against corruption, criminalising acts of corruption
- Ensure the integration of the right to health within anti-corruption laws aimed at the health sector
- Protect whistle-blowers, including guaranteeing the right to anonymity
- Remove incentives for corrupt behaviour by building resilient health systems
The attention of the UN to this issue is a welcome step and it remains crucial that the human rights community commit their attention to corruption, particularly as it undermines the achievement of the highest attainable standard of health – a fundamental right of every human being. While this is a global concern, corruption in health affects certain populations more seriously than others, perpetuates global inequalities and hinders sustainable global development.
Meanwhile, we in TI-PHP are continually committed to guaranteeing the human right to health by achieving genuine change in the health sector through reducing corruption and promoting transparency, integrity and accountability. We bring a coordinated international response that mobilises government and local communities, and constructively engages all the key players including the public sector, the private sector, global institutions and civil society.
Across our Movement, Transparency International is fighting corruption in the healthcare sector as called for in the Special rapporteur’s report.
Some examples of this work include:
- Successful implementation of a whistleblowing system at patient level in health facilities in Yaoundé, Cameroon, whereby patients can log complaints when they are overcharged or pay bribes for medicines and health products. Complaints are provided directly to the Ministry of Health so that they can be dealt with and the Ministry has a collection of data on the most pertinent problems facing patients (supported through TI PHP’s Health Action Fund)
- Working closely with pharmaceutical manufacturing alliances in Latin America to develop a regional Business Integrity Code of Conduct to regulate industry interactions with healthcare professionals.
- Development of ProZorro in Ukraine – the most sophisticated e-procurement system in Europe. This system uses the principles of Open Contracting, a data standard which guarantees that all public procurement is made transparent and available for scrutiny by civil society organisations. To date this system has led to health sector savings of $34mil USD that can be reinvested into shoring up a sustainable national health system that can provide quality services to its citizenry.
- Health budget tracking in Kenya to strengthen democratic accountability and transparency through citizen monitoring of government expenditure to uncover suspected corruption and mismanagement of public funds.
- Advocacy and awareness raising of the importance of tackling corruption in the health sector at international fora and providing technical assistance to various high-level stakeholders.
Every day, all around the world, people suffer and die due to corruption in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors. Building on the results of the Special Rapporteur’s report, TI PHP invites global stakeholders to join us in our efforts to create a sustainable future that guarantees everyone’s right to health.
About Sarah Harris-Steingrüber
Sarah joined the Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare Programme in January 2017 and has a strong background in the area of public health and international development and has worked with UN and national development agencies in Europe, Southeast Asia and West Africa.