It is fair to say that the current COVID-19 crisis has the ability to potentially impact pretty much anything in the world at this point.
Recently the OECD Working Group on Bribery (made up of representatives from the States Parties to the OECD Convention) released a statement indicating that it is “going to examine the possible impact and consequences of the coronavirus pandemic on foreign bribery.”
The statement reads in full:
“In the face of the coronavirus outbreak, the OECD Working Group on Bribery reaffirms its collective commitment to fight foreign bribery under the Anti-Bribery Convention. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is bringing unprecedented challenges, human suffering, uncertainty and major economic disruption on a global scale, which in turn can create environments that are ripe for corruption. Bribery and corruption have the potential to undermine the global response to tackle the crisis.
“As countries struggle to gather the health and pharmaceutical products needed to fight the Covid-19 epidemic, it is a priority that all actors respect the rule of law and transparency to ensure the most efficient and effective distribution of the products,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría.
“The high risk of corruption poses a major challenge to tackling this global health crisis,” said Drago Kos, Chair of the OECD Working Group on Bribery. “It is vital that countries remain actively engaged in anti-corruption efforts and work together to ensure their efforts to overcome this crisis are not weakened by corruption”.
Despite the urgent and vital nature of the efforts of the health industry to respond to this pandemic, the sector is not immune to corruption. Many of the detected cases of foreign bribery have occurred in the health industry. Bribery can divert essential resources – such as vital equipment and medicines – away from their intended purpose. Corrupt business dealings endanger vital public services, which in the health sector could result in out-of-date, harmful, ineffective, or unequal access to medicines and medical equipment. As countries around the world work to combat the outbreak, the OECD Working Group on Bribery, which unites all 44 Parties to the Anti-Bribery Convention, is firmly committed to uphold its obligations to fight transnational bribery in all its forms and across sectors. It also calls on all countries around the globe to respect the rule of law, ensure integrity in public procurement, transparency, the effective protection of whistleblowers, and press freedom in order to fight all forms of corruption, especially corruption that could undermine the response to the pandemic.
The OECD Working Group on Bribery is therefore going to examine the possible impact and consequences of the coronavirus pandemic on foreign bribery, as well as solutions to help countries strengthen their anti-bribery systems.”
It is unclear from the above statement just what the OECD Working Group on Bribery is actually going to do.
However, I know I will sleep better tonight knowing that the OECD Working Group on Bribery will be examining “the possible impact and consequences of the coronavirus pandemic on foreign bribery, as well as solutions to help countries strengthen their anti-bribery systems.”
As to the later, the OECD has attempted to do this for nearly 20 years. Whether it has been successful is an open question.