Health fund pledges ‘zero tolerance’ on corruption

The head of the Global Fund Against AIDS, TB and Malaria pledged "zero tolerance" for corruption on Monday after Sweden announced it would not commit to its contributions amid reports of "grave misuse" of about $34 million in four African countries.

Health fund pledges 'zero tolerance' on corruption
Fund director Michel Kazatchkine at UN headquarters in Geneva, Monday

“The global fund has zero tolerance for corruption and actively seeks to uncover any evidence of misuse of its funds,” said Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund, underlining its “most rigorous” anti-fraud controls.

Kazatchkine said the cases of corruption reported in the media over the weekend were not new and had already been revealed by the organisation last year on its website and acted on.

They involved “grave misuse” of about $34 million for projects in Djibouti, Mali, Mauritania and Zambia that had gone missing in the four African countries, he explained. Kazatchkine said his organisation had recovered $19 million so far.

The fund revealed last June that it had suspended aid to Zambia awaiting action by local authorities on fraud. Kazatchkine said on Monday that criminal proceedings were under way there as well as in Mali and Mauritania, but he did not mention Djibouti.

A Swedish newspaper reported on Saturday that Sweden had told Kazatchkine that it would not commit to its €167 million ($226 million) contribution to the fund unless more was done to ensure that cash is not siphoned off.

“Sweden did not say that it would withdraw. On the contrary, I came back Friday evening from Stockholm with the statement that Sweden would contribute and would increase its constributions to the Fund,” Kazatchkine told journalists.

“Sweden is the example of a country to which we have supplied explanations that appeared to be satisfactory,” he added.

The UN-backed agency provides grants for selected projects against the three diseases in poor nations, allocating money provided by governments and private donors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

It is the largest single source of funding to tackle HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, three of the world’s biggest killer diseases, in developing nations.

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