Countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the US have suffered from newfound corruption throughout the pandemic. Those involved range from governments to private businesses, and they centre primarily around the healthcare industry.
Businesses who are accused of corruption should seek the help of a business defence lawyer, and any individuals involved in this corruption will also need legal representation. This is because the consequences for these crimes could become extremely severe.
In this post, we’re going to discuss the increase of corruption during the COVID-19 pandemic, with specific reference to how it’s being perpetrated.
What kind of corruption has been taking place during the Covid-19 pandemic?
The types of corruption taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic are extensions of practices that were already frequently carried out.
The large sums of money required to deal with the pandemic, the need for urgency in disbursing aid, and the risk of excessive influence over policies increased opportunities for corruption to occur, while weakening the mechanisms in place to prevent it.
This corruption has taken place in the following ways:
Theft and price gouging of medical equipment
According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), approximately 10 to 25 percent of all the money spent on procurement globally is lost to corruption. It’s no surprise then that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the procurement of medical equipment succumbed to thievery.
This happened in Brazil when 15,000 coronavirus diagnostic tests, and more than two million personal protective items, were stolen from a cargo terminal at Sao Paolo’s Guarulhos International Airport.
It’s not just the theft of PPE that’s caused an issue; recent media reports from various countries have highlighted cases of price-gouging and lucrative contracts provided to well-connected corporations that bypass the legal procurement process. In Columbia, for example, the inspector general launched fourteen investigations into overpricing of emergency goods. In Italy, 32 million face masks were sold to an agricultural company which the government subsequently investigated.
These corrupt practices are basically the guy who bought 17,700 bottles of hand sanitiser, but with big businesses buying up as much medical equipment as possible on a global scale.
Fraudulent vaccines and certificates
There has been a global surge in black market sales of fake COVID-19 vaccines and medicines since the start of the pandemic.
Mumbai and Kolkata police forces prosecuted a dozen people for their involvement in ‘fake vaccination drives’ that took place in May and June of 2021. China has also clamped down hard on counterfeit versions of domestically produced vaccines.
Some countries, such as Mexico and Poland, have reported counterfeit versions of Pfizer vaccines being sold for $1,000 each. What’s more, Mexican customs officials seized fake Sputnik V vaccines at the border that were on their way to Honduras.
These cases of fraudulent vaccines tend to be in poorer countries due to big pharma companies selling most of their vaccines to more affluent nations. For example, Pfizer presold 82 percent of the vaccines they planned to make in 2021 to the richest countries.
However, it’s not just vaccines that have been counterfeited. In Bangladesh, some of the top officials in the Ministry of Health approved COVID-19 testing in two unlicensed hospitals, which provided fake coronavirus certificates to patients who then travelled to Italy.
Informal payments and bribes for medical care
Transparency International, a global coalition against corruption headquartered in Berlin, released their 2021 Global Corruption Barometer which surveyed more than 40,000 people in the EU’s 27 member states between October and December 2020.
The survey found that 29 percent of residents in the European Union used personal connections to receive medical attention ahead of other citizens and 6 percent of them paid an outright bribe for the privilege.
On top of that, Transparency International’s Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres that exist in 24 countries reported patients paying bribes for PPE and COVID-19 tests in Europe, America, Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia.
There are even reports that, in countries such as Uganda and Cameroon, foreign citizens have evaded quarantine rules by bribing local officials.
Unfortunately, even the data released on infection rates and death have fallen prey to corruption in some countries.
For example, researchers in India found that COVID-19 infections had been grossly misreported, and could be as much as 95 percent higher than the official figures. This inaccuracy was caused by residents moving from the cities and into less-tested rural areas to escape lockdown restrictions.
In Brazil, the data was corrupted by the country’s health minister who decided to remove cumulative COVID-19 data from the government website in June 2021. This took place after Brazil’s president declared that the statistics did not reflect the moment the country was in. Thankfully, the supreme court overturned this data removal and ordered that it be restored.
There are even several studies that have been conducted to assess the correlation between authoritarian countries and the manipulation of data in comparison to democratic countries. These studies have shown that the more control a government has over its people, the less accurate their COVID-19 figures were.
Has corruption increased during the Covid-19 pandemic?
In this post, we’ve shared four different types of corruption that have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic which are specific to the pandemic itself.
When countries around the world are scrambling to acquire PPE and deliver vaccines to reduce levels of the virus in their country, when they don’t have the resources to assist everyone who requires medical attention and they have more data to collect than they can handle, there’s bound to be a certain level of corruption that comes along with it.
Hopefully, the measures countries are putting in place now will reduce the increased levels of corruption we’re seeing during this pandemic. Or, at the very least, they’ll prevent the resurgence of these practices when another pandemic hits our shores in the future.