Covid-19 Procurement and Global Challenges to Access to Information (ATI)

By Nino Japarashvili

It is generally accepted that corruption thrives in times of crisis due to the conducive environments that are fed by disorder and confusion (G20, 2020).

With COVID-19 vaccines being approved for use in different parts of the globe, the scale and complexity of their manufacture, allocation and distribution globally is unprecedented (UNODC, 2020).

This presents various corruption risks that may threaten vital public health goals.

The risks include the entry of substandard and falsified vaccines into markets, theft of vaccines within the distribution systems, leakages in emergency funding designated for the development and distribution of vaccines, nepotism, favouritism and so forth. (UNODC, 2020).

One of the most vulnerable areas to corruption in times of Covid-19 pandemic is the procurement of vaccines and materials (Transparency International, 2020).

When the protection of health and life of humans is at stake, procurement rules cannot stay in the way as always. During the emergency situation, public procurement may be conducted without transparency; this increases the risk of corruption in the health sector (UNODC, 2020).

With some already existing examples of corruption and poor, often non-inclusive, policies undermining COVID-19 responses and recoveries around the world, upholding the right to information matters now more than ever (Transparency International, 2020).

Unfortunately, there is a disturbing trend. Numerous countries have curtailed the right to public information (RTI) under the pretext of responding to the pandemic. This is not only the case under regimes where this right is regularly brushed aside, but also in countries where it is both protected by law and usually respected (DW Akademie, 2020).

Access to accurate and timely information during the pandemic is essential. It helps people make safe choices, for themselves and their families, with governments having a corresponding obligation to disseminate widely public interest information and to address disinformation (UNESCO, 2020).

Furthermore, ensuring the right to information allows journalists and NGOs to monitor the work of government institutions and share information about public decision-making. This allows the detection of corruption and lowers the likelihood of corrupt behaviour and practices (UNODC, 2020).

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