Preventing Corruption During the Pandemic: Challenges and Recommendations
The Coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented challenge for countries and their governments. Containing the spread of the disease requires large-scale and often radical measures from the authorities. These measures are mostly justified due to public health needs. However, it is also important to understand the risks that these measures involve and to develop strategies for addressing them.
Corruption is one such risk as its likelihood tends to rise during crises. The growth of government power in such situations involves the danger of this power being used for the benefit of the private interests of particular individuals or groups.
The OECD has highlighted three primary challenges in this context: 1) Integrity challenges in public procurement. 2) Accountability, control, and oversight of the economic stimulus packages. 3) Increased risks of integrity violations in public organizations.
Similarly to other countries, Georgia is facing these challenges too: The Government’s power has increased during the crisis and the Government is also planning to implement a large-scale programme to address the pandemic’s economic impact.
These are necessary and justified measures in the current situation. At the same time, the authorities must realize the risks described above and take all possible measures to reduce them.
It is important that:
- Restriction of civil rights be proportionate and based on public health needs alone, and that no selective application of the law take place.
- Unless there is an urgent need to do otherwise, public procurement be conducted through competitive tendering during the state of emergency.
- The Parliament and the State Audit Office conduct proper monitoring of the Government’s activities and the spending of the funds allocated for addressing the epidemic’s impact.
- The authorities ensure the parliamentary opposition’s inclusion in the planning of the measures designed to overcome the crises and in overseeing their implementation.
- The Government ensure maximum transparency of its activities and spending and regularly publish detailed reports concerning the implementation of the measures designed to contain the epidemic and the social and economic aid programmes. The allocation of social and economic aid must be transparent and fair, and not serve the ruling party’s electoral goals.
- The internal oversight bodies of public institutions (internal audit services, general inspectorates) do their best to detect and prevent corruption.
- The law enforcement bodies examine closely all information about possible cases of corruption.