Apr 06, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – The United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in its report titled “COVID-19 Vaccines and Corruption Risks: Preventing corruption in the manufacture, allocation and distribution of vaccines,” has pinpointed corruption risks in emergency funding.
Given the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic, which has left countries worldwide vehemently hunting to source vaccines and other medical supplies to combat the virus, corruption risks are now heightened.
The organisation has outlined that with crisis response, large amounts of funding are directed to address a critical and complex problem rapidly. “As of June 2020, the International Monetary Fund estimated that approximately United States dollars (US$) 11 trillion had been allocated globally as fiscal support to the COVID-19 response,” the report noted, adding that in October 2020, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved US$12 billion for developing countries to finance, purchase and distribute COVID-19 vaccines for their populations.
In light of that, the report cautioned that with large inflows of funding that are being disbursed quickly, they may be vulnerable to corruption if appropriate due diligence criteria are not in place.
Further, it referenced a scandal that occurred during Sierra Leone’s 2014 Ebola outbreak, where it was found that there was a lack of documentation of nearly US$3.3 million in payments from the Government of Sierra Leone’s Ebola directed accounts and that US$2.5 million in disbursements had incomplete documentation. The investigation was conducted by the country’s audit service and in its report, it was noted that there were many examples of apparent fraud and corruption. “For instance, in the procurement of supplies and payments for Ebola response workers, it is estimated that the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies lost millions in funding due to fraud and collusion in the Ebola response,” the UNODC highlighted.
As it expressed the aforementioned challenges, the organisation has suggested that states consider immediate and long-term response measures to identify and mitigate corruption risks that may compromise their population’s access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. It lamented that the United Nations Convention against Corruption is the only legally binding, universal anti-corruption instrument and it provides a global framework and key tools to promote accountability, integrity and transparency, “in times of crisis, during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Moreover, it was stated that the ongoing pandemic continues to soar across the globe and morbidity and mortality rates continue to climb. It now illustrates the urgency of developing and ensuring access to affordable, safe and efficacious vaccines, and their rapid and fair deployment.
According to the UNODC, a critical response will be required by governments to ensure their populations get access and thus far, many governments have indicated their aim to set up COVID-19 vaccine programmes that will cover their entire population.
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