COVID cheats

Global governments' urgent COVID-19 procurements are risks

When the world shut down last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, governments declared national emergencies and urgently began procuring hospital equipment, medical ventilators, hand sanitizers, face masks and health services to meet immediate needs.

In Brazil, for example, the government procured more than 80% of COVID-19 goods and services with ad hoc emergency rules without any competitive procedures. Procurement schemes like theft of medicines and medical supplies, price gouging, embezzlement and bribes paid to government officials to obtain contracts in the health sector are all long-term corruption and fraud risks, which Brazil reported as concerns during COVID. (See "Responses to the G20 Survey for the Good Practices Compendium on Combating Corruption in the Response to COVID-19, from the G20 Saudi Arabia 2020 Riyadh Summit," and "600 days of government: CGU highlights key actions during the pandemic," Brazil’s Federal Comptroller General, Aug. 21, 2020.)

But it wasn’t just in Brazil where the state rushed to garner emergency supplies for its citizens. This level of emergency procurement activity was occurring across the globe, and not always with the idea of preventing fraud foremost in mind.

The Open Contracting Partnership (OCP) estimates that by July 2020 at least $100 billion worldwide had been spent on pandemic-related procurements. (See "Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings and recommendations for better emergency procurement," OCP.) The OCP is an independent, not-for-profit spun out of the World Bank. It’s designed to open and transform government contracting worldwide, according to the organization. (See

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