"Corruption and emergencies feed off each other, creating a vicious cycle of mismanagement and deeper crisis," wrote Jon Vrushi and Roberto Martínez B. Kukutschka of Transparency International upon release of the report. "The large sums of money required to deal with emergencies, the need for urgency in disbursing aid or economic stimulus packages and the risk of undue influence over policy responses form a perfect storm for corruption as they can increase opportunities for it to occur while weakening the mechanisms in place to prevent it. This, in turn, undermines fair, efficient and equitable responses to crises. The handling of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world perfectly illustrates the need for integrity in the management of crises."
To address the issue of dealing with the pandemic the group offers the following recommendations:
- Mainstream anti-corruption policies: transparency, accountability, integrity, and multi-stakeholder participation need to be integrated into all Covid-19 related programs, plans, and policies. This includes conducting corruption risk analyses as part of wider health system strengthening assessments and national health planning exercises.
- Increase transparency in public contracting: this includes timely publication of contracting data in an open format and their publication in centralized platforms, designing explicit rules and protocols for emergencies and ensuring they are enforced. It is also crucial to adequately document public contracting procedures during the crisis. Risk assessments can also prove useful to focus resources on areas or processes more vulnerable to corruption.
- Strengthen audit and oversight institutions: audit institutions and anti-corruption agencies need to be independent and properly resourced to be able to perform their duties. Specific technological tools that enable real-time auditing in emergencies must be rolled-out and activated when necessary. It might also be worth setting aside sufficient resources for ex-post audits of emergency funds and communicating the decision to conduct these as a way to deter potentially corrupt behavior.
- Enforce checks and balances: a robust system of checks and balances is a key systemic measure against corruption and any emergency powers assumed by the executive should follow best practice and due process, be proportional and respect time limits as well as fundamental human rights.
Looking at the results in general terms the 2020 report, which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption based on input from experts and businesspeople, showed some progress. However, Transparency International said that most countries still fail to tackle corruption effectively.