In the wake of revelations of US $34 million in misappropriated funds, a prominent private/public health partnership that fights AIDS and other diseases has announced it is toughening its internal anti-fraud efforts - writes Chris Herlinger.
In a statement on 4 February 2011, Michel Kazatchkine, the executive director of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said the fund has "zero tolerance" for fraud. "That is why we need to have the strongest possible financial safeguards and fraud prevention measures in place and are responding aggressively when instances of fraud or misappropriation are detected," he said.
The fund recently reported that its inspector general "listed grave misuse of funds in four of the 145 countries which receive grants from the Global Fund." The countries are Djibouti, Mali, Mauritania and Zambia
Among those involved in the Geneva-based fund are civil society groups, including religious and faith-based organisations, as well as public bodies, governments, private companies and affected communities.
As a result of the internal investigation, the fund said it has taken immediate steps to recover the misappropriated funds. The Global Fund, formed in 2002, has disbursed a total of US $13 billion to health programs in 145 countries.
In addition, to such measures as strengthening financial controls and increasing staff that oversee financial management, the fund said it is also establishing an independent group of experts to review its financial control and oversight procedures.
The fund's high-profile campaigns, such as the recent "Born HIV Free" campaign, have attracted the support of such prominent figures as rock stars Bono and Sir Paul McCartney, and fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier.
In an op-ed piece that appeared on 4 February, Michael Gerson of the Washington Post newspaper warned against over-reaction to the revelations, noting that the US $34 million "represents about three-tenths of one per cent of the money the fund has distributed." The cases of corruption, he added, "were revealed by the fund itself."
He added that the fund "supports about two-thirds of the global effort against malaria and tuberculosis, and about a quarter of the fight against HIV/AIDS. Since 2002, it has helped detect and treat 7.7 million cases of TB, distribute 160 million insecticide-treated nets and put millions of people on AIDS treatment. These are not the results of a fundamentally dysfunctional programme."
[With acknowledgements to ENInews. ENInews, formerly Ecumenical News International, is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]