A couple of times since the pandemic reared its ugly head, I've written in these Leaders about the fraud and corruption that took place in many parts of the world, whereby - with everyone's focus on the events that were unfolding - some of the more unscrupulous amongst us took advantage of the situation; with some companies and individuals fraudulently claiming support payments during lockdown, Government departments awarding contracts for the supply of Personal Protective Equipment and other pandemic response-related products to those who shouldn't have had them and the supply of sub-standard equipment - or failure to supply - to name just a few. I recall congratulating the ISSA on its call for those involved in the US to be held accountable. The sums involved were astonishing and it's the taxpayers all over the world who'll be footing the bill for many generations to come.
A report was published this morning by the UK's National Audit Office, headed: 'Tackling fraud and corruption against Government' and although I haven't been able to do much more than skim through it, I can see it's going to make interesting reading. And while it's a UK report, I can already see that there will be lessons to be learned from it by people and governments everywhere. I hope similar investigations are being carried out all over and that those involved in committing crimes will one day be held to account.
The report says that Government's vulnerability to fraud and corruption rose during the pandemic as a result of its response, which involved spending more on areas that are inherently vulnerable to fraud and corruption - such as buying equipment - in a time of high demand and giving grants and loans direct to individuals and businesses. It says that as Government needed to respond quickly to the unfolding pandemic, it often did so by prioritising speed when setting up these new initiatives, over reducing the risk of fraud and corruption, and diverted compliance and counter-fraud staff away from their normal roles. It also refers to previous reports that identified ways public bodies could have better managed fraud risk without impairing the emergency response - including faster transparency, better management of conflicts of interest, addressing known vulnerabilities sooner and timely financial reporting. You can read it at: https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/tackling-fraud-and-corruption-against-government-summary.pdf
Interestingly, it mentions that in the latest Transparency International survey of public and business perception of corruption, the UK, while still ranking highly for trust, fell from 8th out of 180 countries in 2017 to 18th in 2022 for the perceived level of corruption. I haven’t yet read this survey, but I’m looking forward to doing so!