Healthcare sector probed by OECD's antibribery group for 'Wild West' procurement approach

23 April 2020 00:00 by Martin Coyle

A “Wild West” approach to healthcare procurement during the Covid-19 crisis led an international antibribery group to fast-track pandemic-linked corruption research, MLex understands.

The OECD Working Group on Bribery yesterday said it was examining the impact of the pandemic on foreign bribery controls in countries and in sectors like the healthcare industry.

Questionnaires were sent to the 44 members of the working group on April 1, with countries told to respond by next week, MLex understands. A report setting out the issues and detailing some recommendations could be released as early as the end of May.

The working group asked members what the immediate impact of the pandemic had been on the workflows of anticorruption agencies and whether resources had been stretched in any way. The group also asked whether agencies have had to relocate and what strategies had been put in place to negate related issues; and what steps had been taken to address the increased risks of bribery during the crisis.

Finally, the questionnaire asked what steps the OECD could take to relieve the strain that the outbreak has caused for agencies. The answers will be collated into the final report containing some recommendations which will be made public.

The working group, which monitors adherence to the OECD antibribery convention, is particularly concerned about the “Wild West” state of healthcare procurement during the crisis as countries scramble to secure personal protective equipment such as masks and other medical equipment.

This has led to concerns that the sector will become ripe for bribery and corruption.

“Corrupt business dealings endanger vital public services, which in the health sector could result in out-of-date, harmful, ineffective, or unequal access to medicines and medical equipment,” the working group said in its statement.

Other organizations have also expressed fears that the global crisis creates fertile ground for financial crime. Yesterday, the Institute of International Finance warned of a rising tide of financial crime brought about by the pandemic.

The Covid-19 outbreak has caused a pause in some of the working group’s day-to-day work, including its country assessments. The group does expect to hold its June plenary meeting virtually, however.

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