What you need to know:
- In the health sector, it has often proven to be a struggle, especially on transparency and accountability.
- That will not only ensure accountability but also avoid corruption loopholes that deny citizens urgent healthcare.
As the world copes with the Covid-19 health crisis, governments’ initial responses have been in rushing to guarantee citizens of their health, well-being and safety. We have witnessed quick measures through lockdowns to stem the spread of the virus, turning the lives of citizens upside-down.
These unprecedented times have also been quick on exposing the loopholes in global healthcare systems and their unpreparedness in dealing with pandemics. Demand for urgent medical equipment has also gone up. Philanthropists such as Jack Ma have donated critical medical care equipment.
But as countries rush to deal with infections, now at more than 400,000 cases, supply chains have hugely been disrupted, leading to a high demand cycle for medical goods and services and a cash crunch for most companies.
Emergency procurement has been imminent during this crisis and Kenya, too, will soon be purchasing more equipment to cope with the rising statistics — at 50 cases last evening.
Procurement is a make-or-break determinant during humanitarian crises that call for emergency supply of medicines and health equipment. In the health sector, it has often proven to be a struggle, especially on transparency and accountability.
Transparency International, in its 2017 report, “Making the case for open contracting in healthcare procurement”, indicated that 28 per cent of the health sector corruption cases in the European Union are related to procurement of equipment.
In 2018, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission revealed malpractices and corruption in the procurement of medical supplies, citing inflated costs by pharmaceuticals and hospitals.
The government must ensure integrity in its response to the pandemic, especially in procurement of medical supplies and equipment.
The $60 million (Sh6 billion) that the World Bank gave it to combat the coronavirus pandemic will play a critical part in enhancing trust through its constitutional mandate of ensuring all citizens are protected and enjoy their right to health.
Susceptible to corruption.
Procurement must be open, transparent and accountable. The government must cushion itself against suppliers who gouge it by inflating the prices of medical supplies. Being the nerve of effective governance by performing public institutions, procurement has often been riddled with and susceptible to corruption. But we can mitigate these risks.
First, transparency must not be compromised, regardless of the nature or urgency of the purchase.
A country like Ukraine — which reformed its procurement system thanks to collaboration with the civil society and private sector — was quick to publish the procurement details of all its medical infrastructure for Covid-19.
That will not only ensure accountability but also avoid corruption loopholes that deny citizens urgent healthcare.
Secondly, ensure a level playing field in the bidding process.
Big corporations and companies that traditionally dominate and win tenders in the health sector should not trample smaller businesses, such as those from marginalised communities, that can provide similar goods and services.
While the argument at this time may be that the threshold of healthcare equipment is quite high, locking out competition, critical care must be put in ensuring that the process is inclusive and fair. Kenya’s affirmative action, Access to Government Opportunities (AGPO), speaks to this.
Lastly, approaches such as open contracting can aid in providing reliable, real-time and user-friendly procurement data that can tighten compliance.
In Colombia, for instance, this has been lauded as a game changer in transforming a school feeding programme by delivering quality and nutritious meals to pupils.
Makueni County has been in the frontline of setting the pace in efficient procurement systems by adopting open contracting.
Covid-19 has taken the world by storm. However, integrity in emergency response such as procurement can be a force in arresting its spread.
Ms Sally is the communications manager, Hivos East Africa. [email protected]