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[afro-nets] Fraud plagues global health fund
- From: "Leela McCullough" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2011 10:22:09 -0500
Forwarded from our Essential Drugs discussion group
[Worrying press reports about the fraud in 4 countries receiving Global Fund support. AP article about Washington Post write-up, and a Global Fund press release.
The Inspector General's office website is at
http://www.theglobalfund.org/en/oig/ Copied as fair use. WB]
THE WASHINGTON POST : Fraud plagues global health fund
By JOHN HEILPRIN
The Associated Press
Sunday, January 23, 2011; 4:54 PM
GENEVA -- A $21.7 billion development fund backed by celebrities and hailed as an alternative to the bureaucracy of the United Nations sees as much as two-thirds of some grants eaten up by corruption, The Associated Press has learned.
Much of the money is accounted for with forged documents or improper bookkeeping, indicating it was pocketed, investigators for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria say. Donated prescription drugs wind up being sold on the black market.
The fund's newly reinforced inspector general's office, which uncovered the corruption, can't give an overall accounting because it has examined only a tiny fraction of the $10 billion that the fund has spent since its creation in 2002. But the levels of corruption in the grants they have audited so far are astonishing. A full 67 percent of money spent on an anti-AIDS program in Mauritania was misspent, the investigators told the fund's board of directors. So did 36 percent of the money spent on a program in Mali to fight tuberculosis and malaria, and 30 percent of grants to Djibouti.
In Zambia, where $3.5 million in spending was undocumented and one accountant pilfered $104,130, the fund decided the nation's health ministry simply couldn't manage the grants and put the United Nations in charge of them. The fund is trying to recover $7 million in "unsupported and ineligible costs" from the ministry. The fund is pulling or suspending grants from nations where corruption is found, and demanding recipients return millions of dollars of misspent money. "The messenger is being shot to some extent," fund spokesman Jon Liden said. "We would contend that we do not have any corruption problems that are significantly different in scale or nature to any other international financing institution."
To date, the United States, the European Union and other major donors have pledged $21.7 billion to the fund, the dominant financier of efforts to fight the three diseases. The fund has been a darling of the power set that will hold the World Economic Forum in the Swiss mountain village of Davos this week.
It was on the sidelines of Davos that rock star Bono launched a new global brand, (Product) Red, which donates a large share of profits to the Global Fund. Other prominent backers include former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan, French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gives $150 million a year.
The fund's inspector general, John Parsons, said donors should be reassured that the fund is serious about uncovering corruption: "It should be viewed as a comparative advantage to anyone who's thinking about putting funds in here."
But some donors are outraged at what the investigators are turning up. Sweden, the fund's 11th-biggest contributor, has suspended its $85 million annual donation until the fund's problems are fixed. It held talks with fund officials in Stockholm last week. Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman Peter Larsson said in a statement that his country is concerned about "extensive examples of irregularities and corruption that the fund has uncovered" in nations like Mali and Mauritania.
"For Sweden, the issues of greatest importance are risk management, combating corruption and ultimately ensuring that the funds managed by the Global Fund really do contribute to improved health," he said.
The investigative arm of the U.S. Congress also has issued reports criticizing the fund's ability to police itself and its overreliance on grant recipients to assess their own performance. Fund officials blame the misspending on the lack of financial controls among the grants' recipients, many of which are African health ministries whose budgets are heavily supported by the fund. Others are nations or international organizations without the resources to deal with pervasive corruption. The fund finances programs in 150 nations in all.
Among the corruption uncovered by Parsons' task force:
-Last month, the fund announced it had halted grants to Mali worth $22.6 million, after the fund's investigative unit found that $4 million was misappropriated. Half of Mali's TB and malaria grant money went to supposed "training events," and signatures were forged on receipts for per diem payments, lodging and travel expense claims. The fund says Mali has arrested 15 people suspected of committing fraud, and its health minister resigned without explanation two days before the audit was made public.
-Mauritania had "pervasive fraud," investigators say, with $4.1 million - 67 percent of an anti-HIV grant - lost to faked documents and other fraud. Similarly, 67 percent of $3.5 million in TB and malaria grant money that investigators examined was eaten up by faked invoices and other requests for payment.
-Investigators reviewed more than four-fifths of Djibouti's $20 million in grants, and found about 30 percent of what they examined was lost, unaccounted for or misused. About three-fifths of the almost $5.3 million in misappropriated money went to buy cars, motorcycles and other items without receipts. Almost $750,000 was transferred out of the account with no explanation.
-Investigators report that tens of millions of dollars worth of free malaria drugs sent to Africa each year by international donors including the Global Fund are stolen and resold on commercial markets.
-The U.N. Development Program manages more than half of the fund's spending, but U.N. officials won't release internal audits of their programs to the fund's investigators. Parsons said that has blocked him from investigating programs in the more than two dozen nations, including some of the most corruption-prone.
UNDP spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Sunday that the program's policy bars it from sharing internal audit reports with the Global Fund, but that it is reassessing that policy. "UNDP does, as a standing practice, inform the Global Fund about key audit findings and recommendations resulting from internal audits of Global Fund grants managed by UNDP," he said.
The Global Fund was set up as a response to complaints about the cumbersome U.N. bureaucracy, and is strictly a financing mechanism to get money quickly to health programs. In just eight years it claims to have saved 6.5 million lives by providing AIDS treatment for 3 million people, TB treatment for 7.7 million people and handing out 160 million insecticide-treated malaria bed nets.
People should focus on those results, said Homi Kharas, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and formerly the World Bank's chief economist for East Asia and the Pacific. "Without a spotlight, without investigations, and without some sort of accountability, it's impossible to root out corruption," he said. "But just simply withdrawing donations, I do believe, would condemn millions of people who are not involved in the corruption to terrible fates."
Global Fund Press Release
24 January 2011
Global Fund statement on abuse of funds in some countries
Following a recent media report of misuse of Global Fund grants, the Global Fund is issuing the following statement:
The Global Fund has zero tolerance for corruption and actively seeks to uncover any evidence of misuse of its funds. It deploys some of the most rigorous procedures to detect fraud and fight corruption of any organization financing development.
The vast majority of funds disbursed by the Global Fund is untainted by corruption and is delivering dramatic results in the fight against the three diseases.
"Transparency is a guiding principle behind the work of the Global Fund and we expect to be held to the highest standards of accountability," said Prof. Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund.
The news report that has caused concerns refers to well-known incidents that have been reported by the Global Fund and acted on last year. There are no new revelations in yesterday's media reports.
In its report last year, the Global Fund's Inspector General listed grave misuse of funds in four of the 145 countries which receive grants from the Global Fund. As a result immediate steps were taken in Djibouti, Mali, Mauritania and Zambia, to recover misappropriated funds and to prevent future misuse of grant money.
In total, the Global Fund is demanding the recovery of US $34 million unaccounted for in these and other countries out of a total disbursement of US $13 billion.
"The distinguishing feature of the Global Fund is that it is very open when it uncovers corruption. That is its comparative advantage," said John Parsons, Inspector General of the Global Fund.
The Global Fund is working with the relevant authorities to ensure that those committing fraud are brought to justice. Criminal proceedings are already underway in Mali, Mauritania and Zambia.
The Global Fund has suspended relevant grants in Mali and Zambia and terminated another grant in Mali. Special safeguards have been imposed on continuing grants in Djibouti, Mauritania and Mali, meaning that they are subject to particularly close scrutiny and restrictions on cash transfers. These safeguards are also in force in Cote d'Ivoire and Papua New Guinea.
The Global Fund Secretariat and the Office of the Inspector General are identifying areas of its portfolio that could be at greater risk of misuse and are strengthening efforts to prevent fraud. Among other measures, the Global Fund Secretariat is devoting additional specialist staff to monitor higher risk countries and improve the capacity of Local Fund Agents, who are responsible for grant oversight in countries, to detect potential fraud.
At its most recent meeting in December, the Global Fund's Board of Directors, representing donor nations, recipient countries, civil society, UN and partner organizations, reviewed the progress made in detecting and preventing corruption and supported the actions taken to date by the Inspector General and the Secretariat.
The Global Fund will continue to closely monitor all the grants in its portfolio and respond decisively and urgently to any instances of corruption.
The Global Fund is a unique global public/private partnership dedicated to attracting and disbursing additional resources to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. This partnership between governments, civil society, the private sector and affected communities represents a new approach to international health financing. The Global Fund works in close collaboration with other bilateral and multilateral organizations to supplement existing efforts dealing with the three diseases.
Since its creation in 2002, The Global Fund has become the dominant financier of programs to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, with approved funding of US$ 21.7 billion. To date, programs supported by The Global Fund have saved 6.5 million lives through providing AIDS treatment for 3 million people, anti-tuberculosis treatment for 7.7 million people and the distribution of 160 million insecticide-treated nets for the prevention of malaria.
For more information, please contact:
Andrew Hurst - Communications
Office: + 41 58 791 16 72
Mobile: + 41 79 561 68 07
Information on the work of the Global Fund is available at
Dr. Leela McCullough
Director of Information Services
AED-SATELLIFE Center for Health Information and Technology
"Putting Information into the Hands that Heal"