Civil society must battle corruption during pandemic: UN Secretary General
UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday sounded the alarm about corruption through €spurious or inferior health products during the Covid pandemic.
Guterres said he thought it necessary to flag this issue because corruption during Covid has the potential to seriously undermine good governance around the world.
“Corruption is criminal, immoral and the ultimate betrayal of public trust. It is even more damaging in times of crisis – as the world is experiencing now with the Covid pandemic,” said the UN Secretary-General in a statement.
The response to the virus, he said, is creating new opportunities to exploit weak oversight and inadequate transparency, diverting funds away from people in their hour of greatest need. Governments too may act in haste without verifying suppliers or determine fair prices. As a result, unscrupulous merchants peddle faulty products such as defective ventilators, poorly manufactured tests or counterfeit medicines.
And collusion among those who control supply chains has led to outrageous costs of much-needed goods, skewing the market and denying many people life-saving treatment.
“We must work together to stop such thievery and exploitation by clamping down on illicit financial flows and tax havens; tackling the vested interests that benefit from secrecy and corruption; and exercising utmost vigilance over how resources are spent nationally,” said Guterres.
He called upon the people to hold leaders to account and to create more robust systems for accountability, transparency and integrity without delay.
While there is a need for businesspeople to act responsibly, a vibrant civic space and open access to information are essential. “And we must protect the rights and recognise the courage of whistle-blowers who expose wrongdoing,” he suggested.
Technological advances can help increase transparency and better monitor procurement of medical supplies but anti-corruption bodies also need greater support and empowerment.
“For many people in all regions, corruption has been a long-standing source of distrust and anger against their leaders and governments.
Besides battling Covid, Guterres thought it equally vital to stop corruption exploitation by clamping down on illicit financial flows and tax havens, and by exercising vigilance over how resources are spent nationally.