Transparency International has warned Latin American governments that corruption in the name of responding to the COVID-19 crisis could lead to catastrophic consequences, in addition to killing thousands of lives.
The warning comes after media reports accused the Brazilian government of embezzling funds by awarding ‘emergency contracts’ to supply medical equipment to companies with close ties to ruling politicians.
With the virus continuing to spread, many governments in the region are enacting emergency laws to secure critical medical equipment. While such legislation eases their task of purchasing the equipment, unfortunately, it often also allows governments to bypass the usual checks and balances on public spending.
Across the region, according to the report, frontline healthcare workers are not prepared to tackle the pandemic. More than anything else, they are running low on ventilators and protective gowns and masks.
If precious resources are lost to corruption, it would be hard for the governments to combat the impending crisis, the global organization has warned.
In Brazil, surgical masks are so expensive that many healthcare workers cannot afford it. Such a situation will put healthcare workers at unnecessary risk of infection.
The Transparency International says many of its units in the region are raising alarms over serious corruption risks in emergency response to the virus.
In Brazil, according to local media reports, a private company has won the government contract to supply masks at 12 times higher price than many of its competitors. Similarly, another company that donated money for the Health Minister’s election campaign has won the bid to supply hospital gowns.