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Will the G20 please step up?

The week in corruption, 11 September 2020

Transparency Int'l

Today is a day of reckoning of sorts.

On this day, six months ago, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a pandemic.

In many ways, the ongoing pandemic has turned the world upside down. Besides the devastating human toll around the world, we have also been living through an increasingly disturbing reality that is marked with rising authoritarianism, reduced civic space and misuse of relief funds.

The ongoing pandemic has also exposed vulnerabilities in public contracting systems around the world and shown how unprepared governments are to buy safely during emergencies.

Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic: Have our public contracting systems delivered for the common good?

The intricacy of the virus has not only marked public contracting by urgency and panic. It has also shown how vulnerable and unprepared governments are to deal with corruption networks and to buy safely. Amid the crisis, Transparency International's global network has actively worked to help ensure public contracting systems work for the common good.

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The burgeoning corruption related to COVID-19 spending calls for global, multilateral solutions. With its global reach and economic might, the G20 is one of the few international forums that has the potential to shape and implement policy to fight this crisis.

While the G20 made a commitment of US$21 billion to fight COVID-19 in June, they have stayed silent on how they will ensure that the funds reach those who need them the most.

This week was the first time the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group met in seven months.

At the beginning of the week, we asked if the G20 had done enough to deliver, in their own words, “a transparent, robust, coordinated, large-scale and science-based global response.”

The G20 must show global leadership to tackle COVID-19

The magnitude of this crisis requires the G20 to take action. At this week’s G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group meeting, we don’t need more high-level declarations from G20 representatives saying how committed they to the fight against corruption. These will do little to save lives. We need clear and concrete measures to make sure public funds reach their entitled beneficiaries.

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Despite the meeting this week, we haven’t yet received any clear answers. Was this meeting another talk show or did the leaders come up with meaningful solutions to protect lives and livelihoods?

There’s no question about the potential of the forum, which is immense. The question is whether the G20 will step up and meet its potential to deliver a concrete and transparent global response with comprehensive safeguards against corruption.

We are calling on the G20 to ensure that dedicated COVID-19 funding includes specific budget lines for anti-corruption, transparency and accountability measures and to implement previous anti-corruption commitments.

The G20 should act quickly and decisively to ensure that the relief funds reach their intended beneficiaries and don’t fall into the hands of the criminal and the corrupt.

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