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The disease of corruption: views on how to fight corruption to advance 21st century global health goals. A new article from the journal BMC MEDICINE with articles by experts from the health sector, academia, development assistance and civil society – including a feature by PTF Co-Founder, Frank Vogl.
Corruption has been described as a disease. When corruption infiltrates global health, it can be particularly devastating, threatening hard gained improvements in human and economic development, international security, and population health. Yet, the multifaceted and complex nature of global health corruption makes it extremely difficult to tackle, despite its enormous costs, which have been estimated in the billions of dollars. In this forum article, we asked anti-corruption experts to identify key priority areas that urgently need global attention in order to advance the fight against global health corruption. The views shared by this multidisciplinary group of contributors reveal several fundamental challenges and allow us to explore potential solutions to address the unique risks posed by health-related corruption. Collectively, these perspectives also provide a roadmap that can be used in support of global health anti-corruption efforts in the post-2015 development agenda.
Excerpt by Frank Vogl:
Over the last couple of years, the Partnership for Transparency Fund (PTF), an independent organization originally started in 2000 by the founders of TI, has been pioneering a new information and communications technology (ICT) approach in Uganda. Its likely success can lead to similar projects in other countries. Namely, PTF, together with the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda, launched the Citizen Action Platform (CAP)  to deploy ICT to systematically record, aggregate, map, and track cases of corruption through to their resolution. The aim has been to provide citizens with a means to safely and anonymously report abuse from their mobile phone and receive feedback. The ICT approach has dramatically reduced the costs of monitoring and reporting public service failures, which provides civil society organizations with sufficient solid data to constructively engage with service providers through a better understanding of where, when, and what issues citizens are most concerned about. The CAP program gained traction after instituting a partnership with UNICEF’s Ureport program in January 2016, and may serve as a model in developing more accountable and transparent means of providing healthcare services and distributing medicine and medical supplies. While the reports received often relate to waste and inefficiency in services, more than 25% of all complaints under the CAP program included bribe taking.
PTF has been involved in engaging citizens against corruption on many fronts in more than 50 countries through specific projects. Experience from PTF projects in the health sector where, in many cases, demands for bribes by officials and healthcare workers undermined service delivery has yielded valuable lessons. PTF has shared these findings widely [29, 30] and they have, for example, influenced some of its most recent work, such as the CAP program. Accordingly, PTF has found, for example, that key approaches in implementing citizen-led projects in the health sector where waste of resources, inefficiency and corruption are commonplace, include:
- Raising public awareness of rights, particularly the costs of medicines and treatments, is a key first-step to ensuring these rights are appropriately fulfilled.
- Designing projects to cover a wide range of issues so that they are capable of hearing a wide variety of citizen voices and responding to their greatest concerns – this proved to be most effective, for example, in PTF’s work with 15 communities in service delivery projects in India.
- Engaging constructively with authorities is the most effective way to resolve issues and achieve change.
- Advocacy is more powerful with partnerships between civil society organizations at the national level, who have access to decision-makers, and the local level, who can ensure that service delivery is supported by systemic or policy changes.
- Trained and supported volunteer citizen committees can be powerful agents to identify corruption and push for improvements, even on technical issues.
- Anti-corruption commissions and public service codes of conduct can be helpful in elevating corruption issues and strengthening accountability among service providers.