Systemic corruption in the health sector in West Africa hurt the response to the Ebola epidemic that has already killed more than 9,500 men, women and children. Poor risk monitoring in managing the aid funds has also led to claims of corruption and mismanagement. This must stop.
Transparency International has called on the governments of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and the United Nations to conduct and publish a comprehensive audit of all Ebola emergency funds. In conjunction with this, governments and aid providers must ensure that health sector services are strengthened and the appropriate corruption risk assessments are implemented and monitored.
The aid audit must include the money donated by citizens of the affected countries, many of whom are desperately poor and gave what little they could in the hopes of helping in this crisis.
So far there has only been one audit in Sierra Leone which has raised more questions than answers and none in Liberia or Guinea, the three most affected countries.
Anyone found to have stolen these funds, inflated prices of goods at a time of emergency to profit from the crisis, or provided sub-standard equipment which led to people’s illness and death must be prosecuted and punished.
Strengthening health delivery
The health sectors in the countries affected and the humanitarian aid operations set up to tackle the disease were put at a terrible disadvantage in their efforts combatting Ebola because of corruption.
Research shows that 48 per cent of patients surveyed in Sierra Leone and 40 per cent in Liberia paid bribes to access health services, according to Transparency International’s 2013 Global Corruption Barometer. This was at a time when there was no national crisis or deadly epidemic.
Weak public financial management systems coupled with high levels of corruption create many opportunities for the abuse of power, bribery and unethical actions that can limit the ability of donations to stop the Ebola outbreak. When so much money floods into the region in such a short period of time, accountability for those funds should shoot to the top of any list of priorities."
– José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International.
In the coming months as the countries start rebuilding their economies, the governments must also focus on identifying and mitigating corruption risks in strengthening the health sectors.
Humanitarian disasters like the Ebola outbreak require quick responses but they also require corruption safeguards to ensure money is well spent. Transparency International has worked extensively in this area to produce guidelines on what needs to be done to maximise the aid that is donated in times of crises.
Transparency International’s Humanitarian Aid Integrity Network, led by Transparency International Kenya, engages with and provides relevant support and training to governments, humanitarian aid providers and affected populations.
Transparency International Kenya is currently testing a complaint mechanism that provides affected populations with a coordinated system to report any grievances, including corruption, in the delivery of aid and basic services.
Implemented together with 40 partners from state institutions, county governments, international and local humanitarian agencies, the mechanism also acts as a referral system to all humanitarian aid providers involved and is accessible via the internet, SMS and in person.
Training men and women at the local level to become social auditors and conduct social accountability assessments enables these communities to monitor aid delivery and report suspected corruption. Download the handbook here.
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