Corruption in the world is undermining the efforts of health care system to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest report produced by the NGO Transparency International (TI).
Every year, TI produces its Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which ranks the countries of the world according to their levels of public sector corruption, scoring them on a scale of zero to 100, where 100 is very clean.
This year as in the past, more than two-thirds of countries score less than 50, the halfway point towards clean hands; the average is only 43.
This year New Zealand tops the table with a score of 88, down two points from 2019. Belgium comes in at 15 place with a score of 76, equal to Austria.
But the special circumstances of 2020 have allowed TI to take a look at the question of public sector corruption at a time of a worldwide health crisis, and to conclude that not only is corruption undermining health care efforts, but at the same time the pandemic is providing opportunities for corruption and contributing to what the report calls ‘democratic backsliding’.
A health crisis provides opportunities for the corrupt to profit from many aspects of the situation: uncertainty among the population, new avenues of control supplies of essential equipment, ways to limit or control access to care and protection and so on. Countries that have adequate and affordable (or free) health care offer fewer opportunities for corruption in care provision.
“Covid-19 is not just a health and economic crisis, it is a corruption crisis. And one that we are currently failing to manage,” Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International said.
“The past year has tested governments like no other in memory, and those with higher levels of corruption have been less able to meet the challenge. But even those at the top of the CPI must urgently address their role in perpetuating corruption at home and abroad.”
The 2020 report found a clear correlation between a high score on the CPI and investment in health care.
For example, Uruguay with a score of 71 is the highest-scoring country in Latin America, and not only invests heavily in health care, but also has a robust epidemiological surveillance system, which has aided its response to Covid-19 and other infectious diseases like yellow fever and Zika.
At the other end of the scale, Bangladesh scores just 26 and invests little in health care, while corruption has flourished during the pandemic, including bribery in health clinics to misappropriated aid.
“Countries with higher corruption levels also tend to be the worst violators of rule of law and democratic institutions during the crisis. These include the Philippines (34), where the response to Covid-19 has been characterised by major attacks on human rights and media freedom,” the report argues.