With the U.S. Congress currently vetting a Coronavirus response package that could appropriate more than US$1 trillion, Transparency International U.S. today urged congressional leadership from both parties to include 25 targeted anti-corruption measures in the legislation. These reforms will help ensure that corruption does not slow down the response to the pandemic, prolong the suffering of Americans and those dependent on U.S. foreign aid, or undermine the economic recovery from the crisis.
Gary Kalman, Director of Transparency International U.S., said: “During crises like this, when quick decisions are necessary to move vast amounts of resources to address a growing pandemic, there is a heightened risk of fraud and abuse. Special interests should never be driving decisions, but especially not when the stakes are so high.”
Kalman added: “The reforms we’ve proposed to Congress today would help protect against self-interested parties taking advantage of this emergency for their own benefit and thereby undermining the safety of our communities.”
As part of the reform package, Transparency International U.S. calls on Congress to ensure that government contracts go toward fighting the virus and are not stolen or misappropriated by corrupt actors. The best way to do this is to adopt anti-corruption provisions that guard against serious conflicts of interest. Among the policies outlined in the letter is the requirement that contracts not go to businesses owned or controlled by government decision-makers. In addition, to prevent con artists from fraudulently obtaining funds, Congress should require the disclosure of the true owners of every company with whom the U.S. government enters into a contract.
Using history as a guide, Congress must guard against the secrecy that allowed for the unintended use of bailout funding during the 2008 economic crisis, where billions of dollars believed to be dedicated to foreclosure mitigation instead went to executive bonuses and stock buybacks. As outlined in the letter, there must be a public accounting for both how funds are to be spent and a public reconciliation of how they were spent. Finally, to further ensure accountability, Congress should extend whistleblower protections to those who come forward with credible evidence of any wrongdoing.
Scott Greytak, Advocacy Director for Transparency International U.S., said: “Congress is currently deciding which parts of the economy, and in some cases, which particular U.S. companies, will stay afloat. These anti-corruption provisions will help bring much-needed integrity and public confidence to what may be the most consequential congressional action of a generation.”
Transparency International U.S. recognises that decisions must be made quickly to respond to the crisis. That’s why for nearly all of these recommendations, there is pending legislation, or legislative text available that can be easily adapted into a larger package.
For a full list of recommendations, go to: 25 Essential Anti-Corruption Provisions to Include in the Coronavirus Response Package
Scott Greytak, Advocacy Director, Transparency International—U.S. Office
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