KATHMANDU, JUNE 15
The coronavirus pandemic has affected both developed and developing countries at the same time. In the aftermath of the crisis, there are temptations to give less priority to the reduction and control of corruption and protect the corrupt.
Some people see this grave situation as an opportunity to take advantage of emergency opportunities and use their power for personal gain. As the UN Secretary-General said, "Corruption is criminal, immoral and the ultimate betrayal of public trust." It is even more disgraceful during a time of crisis, such as the current coronavirus pandemic.
There are governments operating indiscriminately without setting reasonable prices, and unscrupulous merchants selling faulty products such as poorly manufactured test kits and counterfeit medicines.
In this dark hour, we must work together to prevent such theft and exploitation by cracking down on such illegal operations.
We can learn important lessons from the HIV/AIDS epidemic in responding to COV- ID-19. Then, the role of civil society was respected, with the government working closely with local community groups to promote local programmes and cultures. As a result, the HIV/AIDS epidemic had less severe social impact than expected.
In times of crisis, the important role of civil society organisations in the fight against corruption is often overlooked.
They can help play an important role throughout the public health system, or in supervision, accounting and data exchange operations. They can help monitor health outcomes, identify issues that end users may face and control the purchasing process.
The solution here is not a new one, but it needs to be adapted to the current situation, maintaining at least a reasonable level of transparency during this time of crisis. The pandemic requires immediate action by all those involved in national health response. What we know from the past infectious diseases or crisis is that it provides a favourable environment for corruption to flourish.
There is a dire need to integrate integrity, accountability and stakeholder engagement measures into all COVID-19 programmes, plans and policies.
At this point, eradicating corruption must be a priority as well as public health response.
COVID-19 provides opportunities to strengthen governance and leadership.
COVID-19 should be a defining moment to show that the health system is durable and transparent, so that the country is in a better position to face future pandemics and health crises and ensure that people are able to access health care services equally.
A version of this article appears in the print on June 16, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.