A new large-scale journalistic investigation has brought together the most egregious facts of corruption, fraud with official statistics and ignorance of the pandemic at the state level.
The voluminous article was prepared by the staff of the independent journalistic portal SciDev. Net in collaboration with doctors from all over the world. It contains confirmation of a huge number of facts of hiding information, abuse of office and corruption during the coronavirus pandemic. The data cover the period for the entire last year and several months of that.
Most often, such events took place in the countries of South America, Africa and Asia. Based on the information received, the authors of the document conclude that not only an epidemic of infection has developed in the world, but also a pandemic of corruption. Moreover, its real scope, perhaps, can be determined only after years. But the first estimates are already obvious. Here are some of the most striking facts to illustrate the picture.
Restrictions on freedom of information
A number of studies show that official statistics in some countries are radically different from the actual test data for coronavirus (for example, in Kenya and Zambia). At the same time, government health and statistical authorities either publish deliberately false information (as in India), or hide it on official websites altogether (in Brazil). In the latter case, after the decision of the Supreme Court, frightening figures again appeared on the website of the local Ministry of Health, but only six months later. Sometimes the numbers are subsequently adjusted and become closer to reality - this happened in Mexico (deaths increased by 60%).
What is most dangerous, individual activists and organizations that try to draw attention to the real state of affairs or ask questions of official structures are persecuted in one way or another. After criticism of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his government, the founder of the local news portal Rappler, Maria Ressa, was subjected to a powerful wave of fake news, threats and lawsuits for any reason. And a leading physician and health expert was kicked out of the Covid-19 working group after he disagreed with Duterte's position.
Corruption in healthcare
It is quite logical to assume that in response to the crisis, government procurement of the necessary medical supplies will proceed in a simplified manner. This looks reasonable. But it is logical to assume that abuse is inevitable with this approach. Even the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has noticed that the cost of vaccines is being discussed between individual governments and drug manufacturers behind closed doors. The final cost of doses remains hidden and can vary radically from state to state.
The number of direct government purchases (no competition) in Mexican health care increased from 78% (in 2019) to 95% (in 2020). This has led some medical and government agencies to use masks that cost five US cents, while others use masks at $ 20 apiece. In Pakistan, a dangerous situation has developed with the Russian drug "Sputnik-V": commercial clinics sell one dose at 1.6 times more than it costs to free vaccination centers. Local doctors anonymously report that due to this difference in cost and profitability, the vaccine supply routes are predetermined.
Government denial of the pandemic
Last June, Tanzanian President John Magufuli said the country was completely free of the coronavirus. Almost immediately after that, the government stopped publishing statistics on the number of cases, recovered and died. Moreover, to all appearances, the collection of this data has become even worse than before, since there was practically no reaction from government agencies to the pandemic. Magufuli died just over a month ago, according to the official version - due to problems with the cardiovascular system.
The country's new president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, has already said that many of the authoritarian measures introduced by her predecessor will be revisited in Tanzania. In particular, to counter the Covid-19 epidemic, a special body will be created, which will include scientists and doctors.
However, experts familiar with the local situation note that, firstly, the time has already been lost and the damage cannot be made up, and secondly, the draconian laws limiting the exchange of information on the pandemic have not yet been canceled. In fact, any Tanzanian who writes on the Web about someone dying from the coronavirus risks going to prison for a year or paying a fine of more than two thousand dollars.
This is just a small part of the evidence collected by the SciDev. Net resource from around the world of the inadequate response of government agencies to the global crisis. It is pointless to give a full retelling of the article, the conclusions from the investigation are quite obvious:
- Lack of up-to-date information leads to misallocation of limited human and material resources. As a result, at best, the country is wasting money, and at worst, there are more human casualties. And the assumption that there may be open statistics and closed “for internal use” is fundamentally wrong: few people will risk leaks and even more damage to their reputation. Therefore, if the official data strongly differ from reality, then the official response to the epidemic is ineffective in principle;
- Discrepancies between the statistics published by government agencies and the current state of affairs sooner or later become obvious. This undermines confidence in the authorities and leads to the rejection of even subsequent adequate decisions;
- Uncontested restrictions on the dissemination of relevant information do not stop panic, but, on the contrary, only make it worse. Conspiracy theories flourish, including anti-vaccination, and trust in government structures is falling even more. As a result, people remain in the dark about the current state of affairs, and in even greater fear - not only of the virus, but also of the government;
- Waste of funds depletes the budget that could be spent on real assistance to the population.
Although independent journalists did not touch on Russia in their investigation, we were engaged in the analysis of domestic statistics. The situation is not as dire as in some other countries, but it also raises serious concerns.