As the devastating socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to reverberate across the globe, the virus is creating, “new opportunities to exploit weak oversight and inadequate transparency, diverting funds away from people in their hour of greatest need”. Corruption is also fuelling distrust of leaders and institutions -- and depleting valuable resources for financing development and recovery. We are seeing the impacts of corruption being felt in service delivery, procurement processes, and the management of funds, economic stimulus packages and social protection measures. As a result, corruption has manifested itself through the circulation of defective ventilators, poorly manufactured COVID-19 tests, and counterfeit medicines -- while the equitable distribution of life-saving vaccines is at severe risk.
Every year, an estimated $2.6 trillion is lost to corruption globally. At least $500 billion is siphoned off due to corruption in the health sector -- that may be more than the total cost of ensuring global Universal Health Coverage for everyone. On the ground in 170 countries, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is supporting governments to integrate transparency, accountability and anti-corruption in both response and recovery priorities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our support has focused on everything from working with the World Health Organization and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to integrate anti-corruption measures into health systems -- to supporting Ukraine to implement a new e-platform to increase transparency in procurement. Indeed, amongst a range of areas, UNDP’s Next Generation of Anti-Corruption programming aims to further harness the benefits of technology and innovation in enhancing transparency and openness.
UNDP itself takes all cases of financial mismanagement and other irregularities extremely seriously to ensure that the organization is fit-for-purpose. In concrete terms, we are working to continuously improve our oversight and risk management systems. Indeed, the entire United Nations system will continue to prioritize transparency and accountability, in and beyond the COVID-19 response.
This year’s UN campaign for International Anti-Corruption Day 2020, Recover with Integrity, emphasizes that an inclusive COVID-19 recovery can only be achieved with integrity and accountability. The UN will be on hand, at the request of governments, to strengthen critical transparency, accountability, and anti-corruption measures. That includes implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption and monitoring the progress of Sustainable Development Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda. In sum, standing up to corruption will accelerate progress on the Global Goals towards that more inclusive, resilient and sustainable future.
Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)