In commemoration of International Anti-Corruption Day, the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) published a new edition of their #CovidCrimeWatch newsletter on December 9. The Autumn newsletter features “a number of stories from across the world on the issue of irregularities in the public procurement sector.”
The newsletter notes how many European countries headed into another lockdown in late October due to a second wave of COVID-19, which prompted an increase in the awarding of “public contracts for the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE),” according to the website. With the increase in public contracts, the newsletter states that “many governments have suspended their usual funding-accountability and public-procurement rules.”
“While corners have often been cut with the genuine intention of meeting the needs of the population as soon as possible, the health crisis has also provided a perfect opportunity for political elites to game the system in myriad ways,” the newsletter states.
Included in the newsletter are breakdowns of the issues various countries are facing during the pandemic in regards to public contracts for PPE. These overviews highlight the lack of transparency from governments all over the world and include several links to reports, investigations, and information relevant to PPE public contracts and COVID-related expenses. The newsletter mentions one case in England in which England’s government was questioned for involving a private company that was “awarded a £108 million (US$140 million) public contract for contract-tracing work in England.” Citizens were concerned that this was an act of “possible favouritism” when an email was leaked that “showed that the company had been approached as early as January and was awarded the contract without it being put to an open tender process,” according to the newsletter. Another instance of a lack of transparency allegedly occurred in Albania, where “public contracts worth millions of euros for PPE and other medical equipment have raised suspicions of corrupt practices and clientelism.”
The page also includes a downloadable Excel spreadsheet that compiles news articles from around the world about COVID-19 fraud and crime.
In the UN’s recognition of International Anti-Corruption Day, the organization points to the importance of whistleblower protections in combating corruption. Whistleblowers who have spoken up during the COVID-19 pandemic have been integral in uncovering fraud and misconduct in these tumultuous times, from Wuhan Central Hospital opthamologist Dr. Li Wenliang who tried to warn his coworkers about the dangers of the virus in late December of 2019 to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employee Jay Brainard, whose whistleblower complaint prompted the TSA to make changes to their COVID-19 protocol. Healthcare whistleblowers have also voiced concerns about safety protocols on the front lines of treating the pandemic: relief charge nurse Jhonna Porter was allegedly retaliated against for trying to warn her coworkers about their workplace’s lack of COVID-19 safety measures, while nurses at a Massachusetts nursing home were allegedly retaliated against for speaking out about extreme understaffing and unsafe working conditions.