Public health and corruption

Corruption poses a significant threat to public health, decreasing the effectiveness, quality and availability of health services while inflating costs. As such, it deprives communities of vital services, products and critical resources, undermining the rights of individuals to adequate, accessible healthcare. Corrupt practices can further aggravate the burden on poor and marginalized populations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing corruption risks within health systems worldwide. In times of crisis, corrupt acts, such as trading in influence to gain access to healthcare-related tenders, may result in the misappropriation of public funds and deleterious effects on health outcomes. Typical procurement processes may be suspended indeterminately in an effort to provide rapid assistance, increasing the risk that unqualified suppliers may deliver substandard products, or fail to deliver at all, or companies may collude to set higher prices. As countries continue to implement national vaccination programmes, corruption risks associated with the manufacture, distribution and allocation of vaccines have also become evident. These include the embezzlement of vaccines within distribution systems, leakages in emergency funding designated for their development and distribution, favouritism and corrupted procurement systems.

Strong anti-corruption measures help safeguard funds and ensure that efforts aimed at enhancing health and well-being for all have a meaningful impact. UNODC is supporting Member States by:

  • developing guidance documents to support Member States’ efforts to prevent and counter corruption in the context of the pandemic and broader health system challenges
  • providing country-level technical assistance focusing on the management of corruption risks in the health systems, including by strengthening public procurement transparency; enhancing the use of technology, open data and digital platforms to better prevent, detect and mitigate corruption risks; and strengthening whistle-blower protection.