Corruption at health institution

ResearchBlogging.orgCorruption at health institution is a concern in all countries, but it is especially in developing countries where public resources are already scarce.

Countries with high indices of corruption have for example higher rates of infant mortality.

A recent World Bank report from Ethiopia (Lindelow and Serneels 2006) report on “pilfering drugs and materials, informal health care provision and illicit charging, and corruption” at health institutions in Ethiopia. The authors focus on “weak accountability mechanisms and the erosion of professional norms in the health sector” as a main causes of corruption.

Fighting corruption is important because corruption reduces the resources available for health. Corruption also lowers the quality, equity and effectiveness of health care services, and it decreases the volume and increases the cost of provided services. Corruption also discourages people to use and pay for health services.

Some examples of corruption in health care (from Vian 2002):

  • During construction and rehabilitation of health institutions: bribes, kickbacks and political considerations influence the contracting work, and contractors fail to perform and are not held accountable
  • Buying equipment, supplies, and drugs: bribes, kickbacks, and political considerations influence specifications and winners of bids, bid rigging during procurement, lack of incentives to choose low cost and high-quality suppliers. Suppliers might fail to deliver and are not held accountable
  • Distribution and use of drugs and supplies in service delivery: Theft (for personal use) or diversion (for resale to private institutions) of drugs and supplies at storage and distribution points. It also includes sale of drugs or supplies that were supposed to be free
  • Education of health professionals: bribes to gain place in medical school or other pre-service training, bribes to obtain passing grades, and political influence, nepotism in selection of candidates for training opportunities

Preventing abuse and reducing corruption is important to increase resources available for health, and thus to improve the health status of the population.

In our health work in Ethiopia we only work with institutions that focus of transparent management procedures, and have proper accounting and perform regular external financial audit. In our experience it is also important that public auditing institutions (“Office of general audit”) regularly evaluate health institutions.


Lindelow, M., & Serneels, P. (2006). The performance of health workers in Ethiopia: Results from qualitative research Social Science & Medicine, 62 (9), 2225-2235 DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.10.015

Vian T. 2002. Corruption and the Health Sector.

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