Corruption risks during COVID-19 outbreak

RAI invites national anti-corruption authorities in the SEE region to take energetic anti-corruption actions in the situation during the outbreak of COVID-19. Values of individual and institutional integrity are of the utmost importance in these times. RAI calls for effective corruption risk management and the promotion of individual and institutional integrity, as well as for an enhanced regional cooperation among the national anti-corruption authorities in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Governments worldwide, including in the SEE region, have undertaken immediate measures as a response to the outbreak of COVID-19 to save people’s lives and to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus as an absolute priority. In line with the Article 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), many states have declared a state of emergency and have undertaken extraordinary measures one of which is granting their executive government with extended powers to adopt decrees with the legal force, thus reducing the exercise of the oversight role of the parliament over the executive.
This situation can result in expanding the corruption risks in many facets of the society, such as stepping outside the regular control mechanisms in the governing policies, in procurement procedures, especially in the health and education sector, private sector, while opening extended possibilities for abuse of powers of public officials for private gains. The list of possible corruption risks becomes non-exhaustive.
More than ever, public officials should promote the highest level of personal and institutional integrity and serve as an example of zero tolerance for corruption. On this occasion, RAI would like to call on the public officials to respect the main democratic values and principles of good governance, impartiality, ethical and honest behavior, and commitment to the public interest without favoritism.
In the period of increased corruption risks, the role of the national anti-corruption agencies, law enforcement agencies, regulatory bodies, and the judiciaries in charge of prevention and fight against corruption is of a prevalent importance. They should take a proactive role and undertake energetic actions in their watchdog mission. Civil society, investigative journalists, activists, whistleblowers, and citizens reporting corruption and other corruption-related and fraudulent acts should get the full support and protection in their efforts for oversight and supervision of the governing policies, especially in the vulnerable SEE economies during the current lockdown.
There are positive examples in the SEE region, the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption of North Macedonia (SPCP) in cooperation with the Platform of Civil Society Organizations for Fight Against Corruption, in midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the state of emergency, directed their activities towards increased monitoring of Government’s work and decisions, while supporting citizens and institutions in reporting possible illegalities. Due attention should be given to the public procurement processes, distribution of the state aid, and donations, as well as to the work of inspectorates (for more details, please follow this link). Additionally, the Serbian Anti-Corruption Agency organized online courses on ethics and integrity for the public administration during the state of emergency. We are confident that there are more examples of good practice.
RAI has a unique role as a leading regional anti-corruption platform in the SEE. RAI can serve as a forum for initiating and promoting initiatives, actions, campaigns in detecting and reducing corruption risks in the most vulnerable areas of the RAI member states, in close partnership with the civil society and the media.
In line with its mission, strategic vision, and objectives, RAI is encouraging national anti-corruption authorities and the civil society to take energetic measures in responding to the growing corruption risks during the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to use the RAI platform and website as a forum for the exchange of their activities, initiatives, policies, measures, good practices in detecting and mitigating corruption risks during the pandemic.
Vladan Joksimovic
Head of RAI Secretariat