Global institutions urge action on pandemic corruption

25 Sep 20

Curbing corruption is more important than ever amid the pandemic, the World Bank has argued in a report.


At a time when governments are making unprecedented use of emergency funds, which often bypass checks and balances in order to save time, to expedite their response to Covid-19, opportunities for corruption are greater.

With a focus on developing countries, where institutions are often less able to tackle corruption, the report has attempted to guide the global public sector towards solutions.

“As countries embark on the road to a more resilient and inclusive recovery, prudent use of scarce resources in a transparent manner is critical,” said World Bank managing director Mari Pangestu.

“Progress is possible in all environments and we are committed to work closely with our partners in government, civil society, and the private sector to address corruption and its corrosive impacts.”

The report pointed to examples of successful anti-corruption work, such as in Bangladesh where the government’s introduction of an online procurement portal halved the number of single-bidder tenders; in Rwanda, where the automation of land records reduced bribes to land registry officials; and in Ukraine, where making wealth declaration forms of public officials available online led to 19 cases being raised against officials in the country’s high anti-corruption court.

“The global report highlights the importance of complementing the traditional methods of dealing with corruption with advanced ones like GovTech and e-Procurement to address corruption, even in the most challenging and fragile environments,” said Ed Olowo-Okere, World Bank global director for governance.

The report called on governments to clearly articulate the actions they take to deal with corruption, better enforce rules, address violations and remedy problems quickly and transparently.

A separate report from the UN has also stressed the need for “urgent” reform on corruption, as well as tax-dodging.

It estimated governments lose $500bn annually from profit-shifting enterprises, that $7trn is hidden in private wealth in tax havens – with 10% of world GDP held offshore, and that some $1.6trn is lost to money laundering each year.

The report claimed global financial systems have not kept pace with digital technology, and that criminals have exploited the pandemic as governments rush to contain the health and economic crises.

“Our weakness in tackling corruption and financial crime has been further exposed by Covid-19,” said ex-prime minister of Niger Ibrahim Mayaki, who co-chairs the UN panel that wrote the report.

“Resources to stop the spread, keep people alive and put food on tables are instead lost to corruption and abuse.”

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