Global Fund Defends Corruption Policies

BY Talea Miller  January 24, 2011 at 4:34 PM EDT

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said Monday it has “zero tolerance” for corruption, and downplayed a media report claiming flagrant misuse of funds within some projects backed by the organization.

The Associated Press reported Sunday it learned that up to two-thirds of certain project’s funds were misspent in Mauritania, Mali, Zambia and Djibouti.

In response, the Global Fund released a statement saying it publicized those instances of misuse last year and addressed them appropriately.

“There are no new revelations in yesterday’s media reports,” the statement released Monday said.

Steps were taken in the four countries to “recover misappropriated funds and to prevent future misuse of grant money,” the group said. It is asking for $34 million in unaccounted-for funds from the country governments.

The Associated Press report alleged that the fund’s inspector general’s office “has examined only a tiny fraction of the $10 billion that the fund has spent since its creation in 2002,” calling what it has uncovered in the four countries in question “astonishing.”

Abuses included 67 percent of money for an AIDS program in Mauritania being misspent, and 36 percent of the money meant for a program in Mali fighting tuberculosis and malaria misused.

Executive Director Michel Kazatchkine told Voice of America that relevant grants to Mali and Zambia were already suspended and that criminal proceedings are underway in several countries.

Another point of dispute is AP’s claim that Sweden, a top contributor to the Fund has suspended its $85 million annual donation until the allegations of corruption were resolved.

“Sweden did not say that it would withdraw,” Kazatchkine told the AFP.

“On the contrary I came back Friday evening from Stockholm with the statement that Sweden would contribute and would increase its contributions to the Fund.”

The Global Fund is the largest funder of HIV/AIDS programs in the world and has received $21.7 billion to help fund health projects since it was formed in 2002.