Kristalina Georgieva, the Managing Director, International Monetary Fund, says corruption corrodes trust in government and weakens the impact of policies and public spending.
She said this on Tuesday at the 19th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC), in South Korea.
The conference which is themed: “Designing 2030: Truth, Trust & Transparency’’ is aimed at ensuring that the fight against corruption is at the centre of the post-pandemic world.
Georgieva said the world was at a time when if people do not trust government, they would not follow the recommended health and containment measures.
She quoted former World Bank Group President, James Wolfensohn, who said “corruption diverts resources from the poor to the rich, increases the cost of running businesses, distorts public expenditures, and deters foreign investors.
“It erodes the constituency for aid programmes and humanitarian relief. And we all know that it is a major barrier to sound and equitable development.”
According to Georgieva, it is especially important to zero in on corruption in the midst of the crisis, which has been the worst health and economic crisis.
She added that there was so much suffering that every penny was counted towards saving lives and protecting livelihoods.
The managing director said that the IMF knows what is at stake and was taking action to help fight corruption both during the crisis, and in the longer term.
Georgievas said that as part of the organisation’s emergency lending, it provided financial lifelines to 78 countries.
“And we have sought to balance the need for accountability and transparency against the need to disburse financing very quickly so doctors and nurses can be paid, and the most vulnerable people can be protected.
“Some of you may have heard me saying, spend what you need but keep the receipts. Accountability cannot take a back seat in this crisis.
“First, all countries receiving emergency financing from the IMF must accept a safeguards assessment of the central bank.
“This is an IMF assessment of a central bank’s governance and control framework to ensure that it can manage IMF resources properly,’’ she said.
She said that the fund has asked countries to commit to specific anti-corruption measures such as publishing crisis-related procurement contracts and information about the beneficial owners of winning companies.
The managing director said countries must commit to enhanced monitoring of COVID-related spending and conduct an audit of crisis-related spending.
Georgieva added that in the IMF’s regular policy consultations with all members, it had recommended that special attention be paid to transparency and accountability of exceptional measures undertaken during the crisis.
“This matters tremendously to everyone, but it is especially important to the most vulnerable people in societies.
“We know it is the poorest and most vulnerable people that are at highest risk from the pandemic and the economic consequences of the pandemic.
“And we know that among low-income countries, the share of the budget dedicated to education and health is one-third lower in highly corrupt countries.
“Corruption keeps children out of school, and it stops people who are sick getting the treatment they need,’’ she said.
She, however, said that efforts to tackle corruption must continue over the long term – because fixing governance vulnerabilities requires time and perseverance.
The managing director said that at the IMF, much of the work on the issue of corruption was undertaken through its 2018 Framework for Enhanced Fund Engagement on Governance.
According to her, the fund helps members strengthen anti-corruption efforts in six key areas.
“They are fiscal governance, financial sector oversight, central bank governance, market regulation, rule of law and anti-money laundering.
“We also look at transnational aspects through assessments of national frameworks to limit opportunities for corruption through foreign bribery or laundering of proceeds of corruption.
“And in our work on data transparency, we urge citizens to keep track of how public money, their money is spent.
“Civil society has an incredibly important role to play in this work, including by helping us all to do better,’’ she said.
The News Agency of Nigeria, reports that the conference which began on Monday will end on Saturday.