By Akanimo Sampson
As part of future coronavirus response packages in the United States, concerned civic groups are pressing Congress to pass anti-corruption legislation.
Global Financial Integrity, Global Witness and eight other organisations released a letter of support on Friday calling on the US Congress to act quickly on the matter.
Their argument is that Congress must recognise the urgent risk that greatly needed aid and resources for addressing the pandemic could be diverted and lost to corruption, both in the US and abroad.
They say the following four anti-corruption bills will help strengthen and protect the US response to the coronavirus pandemic: the Countering Russian and Other Overseas Kleptocracy (CROOK) Act (H.R. 3843/S. 3026); the Kleptocrat Exposure Act (H.R. 3441); the Foreign Extortion Prevention Act (H.R. 4140); and the Justice for Victims of Kleptocracy Act (H.R. 4361).
These four initiatives enjoy the support of the bipartisan and bicameral US Helsinki Commission, led by nine Senators, nine Representatives and three Executive Branch officials, working to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law around the world.
“At a time when corruption risks undermining efforts to stymie the coronavirus and minimise human suffering, these bills will streamline US efforts to strengthen the rule of law abroad; make public the names and misdeeds of international kleptocrats; end impunity for foreign corrupt officials, and shine a light on the ill-gotten gains hidden in the US,’’ they say.
Taken together, the passage of these bills will be a decisive and preventative step against allowing international kleptocracy and corruption to flourish during the coronavirus pandemic.
It will also promote the rule of law at a time when global norms have been upended and help protect the US financial system from illicit actors while the international financial system is in a state of flux.
President & CEO of Global Financial Integrity, Tom Cardamone, issues the following statement: As leaders around the world take action to combat the spread of the coronavirus, the money will flow to government ministries, contractors, pharmaceutical companies, and others. In times of crisis, there will always be some looking for illicit opportunities. Transparency and oversight are urgently needed to prevent a snowballing of international kleptocracy and corruption out of this public health crisis.
Policy Advisor at Global Witness, Alexandria Robins, says: Each year, billions are lost to corruption and fraud in healthcare around the world. As the US and other global leaders step up to fight the spread of the coronavirus and the health and economic devastation it leaves behind, Congress must ensure that any urgently-needed relief and resources are not lost to corruption at home or abroad. Passing legislation that would strengthen the rule of law and deter kleptocrats and the corrupt must be a priority within future coronavirus response packages. Countless lives depend on it.
Global Financial Integrity is, however, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, producing high-caliber analyses of illicit financial flows, advising developing country governments on effective policy solutions and promoting pragmatic transparency measures in the international financial system as a means to global development and security.
Global Witness, on the other hand, has been exposing and fighting corruption around the world for the past 25 years.