Integrating Lessons Learnt from the Covid Crisis

Indonesia (Online), 9 December 2021 - Across Southeast Asia, many countries issued emergency measures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. In Indonesia, this took the form of trillions of rupiah for social safety net programs and cash assistance for those in need as well as micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. In recent months, the country’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has implicated several officials in cor-ruption around the disbursement of these funds, including one case of a minister alleged to have received kickbacks totaling 17 billion rupiah. This is consistent with a UNODC study, which found that Covid-responsive funds in much of Southeast Asia were issued without sufficient oversight, leading to a heightened risk of large-scale cases of corruption.

A UNODC Policy Paper on Covid-19 Vaccines & Corruption Risks is available here

The G20 Call to Action on Corruption and Covid-19 (2020) consists of three broad commitments aimed at breaking the link between the pandemic and corruption, namely a call to transparency around the response to the virus, maintaining sound governance across private and public sectors – including through the role of audits and oversight institutions, and promoting integrity throughout the recovery process.

To promote such the uptake of such commitments, on the occasion of In-ternational Anti-Corruption Day, UNODC and Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) co-organized a Webinar on Lessons Learnt from the Covid-19 Crisis Response: Recover with Integri-ty. The event brought together audiences from across Southeast Asia, including government officials, academics, civil society and the general public.

A full recording of the Webinar on Lessons Learnt from the Covid-19 Response is publicly available for viewing in English here and in Bahasa Indonesia here

Ms. Putri Wijayanti (Officer, UNODC) and Dr. Murti Utami (Inspector General, Ministry of Health) discuss the importance of integrity measures to sustain public health out-comes

Issues discussed during the webinar included:

Integrity gaps can have serious implications for public health

The speakers illustrated that, far from being a victimless crime, corruption can have a major impact on the ability of countries to contain pandemics, maintain public health standards, and keep populations safe. Mr. Randy H. Teguh (Secre-tary General of the Indonesian Association of Medical and Laboratory Equipment Manufacturers and Distributors) framed integrity as a serious patient safety issue. He drew on examples from the sector showing how untransparent procurement practices could lead to the use of unsafe, sub-standard or expired medical equipment. This could have a wider impact on the market, by undercutting the prices at which genuine products could be sold, creating further incentives for safety standards to be com-promised, and disrupting the growth and development strategies of local medical device manufactur-ers.

Measures are needed to offset the susceptibility of the health sector to cor-ruption

A number of speakers noted that various aspects of the health sector render it particularly vulnerable to corruption. Ms. Sarah Steingrüber, Global Public Health Expert, pointed out that healthcare systems are often replete with information asymmetries, between pa-tients and providers, regulators and companies, and government agencies and civil society. This to-gether with limited regulatory capacities and a lack of transnational coordination can lead to extensive corruption risks, as detailed in her U4 report on how corruption impacts the response to Covid-19. Mr. Kunto Aria-wan, Researcher at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), pointed out that the urgent impera-tive to provide emergency healthcare assistance often leads to a reliance on direct procurement pro-cesses, which can be particularly susceptible to conflicts of interest. He described an effective anti-corruption response as a balance, between inflexible and over-regulated procurement processes hampering decision-making and value-for-money, and lax, under-regulated processes allowing corrup-tion to flourish. A full recording and written summary of a previous UNODC webinar on pro-curement reform in the context of Indonesia is available here.

The collection of transparent, unified data can catalyze innovation and smart policymaking

The speakers noted the wide array of benefits provided by transparent data-driven systems. Dr. Murti Utami, Inspector General of the Ministry of Health, showed how online platforms enabled multiple agencies to collaborate across testing, vaccination and therapeutic processes, to avoid the duplication of budgets. Mr. Agus Sarwono, Researcher at Transparency International Indonesia), noted that the full use of open data principles could improve disaster management supply-chain forecasting through real time and integrated data, enabling providers to keep track of outstanding needs for goods and services. Meanwhile, the inclusion of more transparent information around contracts and pricing would lead to a more participatory approach to corruption prevention, empowering civil society groups to ensure the provision of value for money. A previous workshop on the use of open data for the purposes of corruption prevention in Indonesia is summarized here.

Full recordings of the Webinar on Lessons Learnt from the Covid-19 Re-sponse are publicly available for viewing in English here and in Bahasa Indonesia here

This webinar was part of activities funded by prosperity programming of the Government of the United Kingdom and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. Footage (where available) and written summaries of UNODC webinars are publicly available via our website.

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