Another face of corruption Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
March 5, 2002

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THE article headed `Dangerous prescription' which we featured Sunday has thrown up findings on a new face to corruption in the state sector in this part of the world.

The story was based on a new study commissioned by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) that indicates that corruption has infected Latin America's public hospitals and while Guyana is not named among countries surveyed in the exercise, the revelations must give health and other authorities here food for serious thought.

Obvious shortcomings and malpractices in the health sector here were in the headlines recently and the IDB study should spur a closer look at what obtains in Guyana.

Many are familiar with reports of absentee doctors and shortages of drugs at public hospitals, among other concerns but what the study uncovers is alarming:

"Absentee doctors, stolen medications, special fees, questionable referrals - each of these practices can have dangerous and potentially tragic consequences.

"And each of them is due to failure to control theft, fraud and abuse of public resources."

"In other words, they are due to corruption", the author of the article says and that is why Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy and his key officers determined to improve the health system, should pay more than passing attention to the IDB study and findings.

The author notes that Latin Americans have long suspected that corruption is bad for politics, that it weakens democracy and can even inhibit economic growth.

But Diagnosis Corruption provides detailed evidence of the effect of corruption in a sector that many people consider to be immune to such abuses, he points out.

He reports that when IDB-sponsored research teams interviewed patients, doctors and nurses in half a dozen regional countries, they found that corrupt activities are widespread in public hospitals.

Theft of medical supplies, illegal or excessive fees for goods and services, absenteeism by doctors and nurses and unauthorised use of public facilities for private medical practice were among the most frequent abuses reported by survey respondents.

Most of these are common complaints and charges often levelled here and a similar survey in Guyana may turn up some shocking findings, given the longstanding allegations against some in the sector.

A telling point raised in the article is the attitude towards corruption that is alive and well here:

"Although concern over corruption has moved to centre stage in recent years, anti-corruption efforts have suffered from the impression that they are based on anecdotal or even biased information."

But the value of the IDB book is that the survey is based on daily experiences of people who frequent or work in public hospitals and on hospital procurement records.

The result is a detailed and alarming picture of fraud and abuse.

There is enough ground in `Diagnosis Corruption' for the anti-corruption squad here to begin to move on.

Who knows what they would come up with?