28 June 2011

Nigeria: 'N7 Billion Malaria, HIV Funds Frittered'

About N7 billion donor funds sent to Nigeria for the fight against malaria, HIV and tuberculosis were frittered away, according to an audit report by the international agency that provided the funds.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) said in a report filed with the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission that beneficiary agencies failed to account for up to $475 million meant to "save lives".

The agencies are the Gowon Centre, National Agency for the Control of AIDS, Society for Family Health (SFH), National Malaria Control Program (NMCP), Association for Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH), Christian Health Association of Nigeria (CHAN) and CHAN-MEDIPHARM.

Part of the audit report said, "The Office of the Inspector General of Global Funds to Nigeria discovered the fraud in a recent audit of 15 grants amounting to $474,519,260 disbursed between 2003 and 2009 for the purpose of saving lives in the country."

Spokesman for the ICPC Mike Sowe said the commission will investigate the accusations of fraud against those organisations and charge those indicted to court.

The report said, "The value for money audit report indicates that the Yakubu Gowon Centre for International Cooperation illegally transferred funds outside the country amounting to $15.5million, incurred extra budgetary expenditures of $5.2m, and had undocumented expenditures amounting to $3m. The unretired expenditures of the centre for the period under review amounted to $1.2m, while the management fee not accounted for was $659,000.

"The National Action Committee on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria incurred extra-budgetary expenditures of $71,000 in addition to $679,000 as unretired expenditures; while the Society for Family Health had $861,000 admin charges not accounted for and $68,000 unretired expenditures.

"The National Malaria Control Program had $711,000 unretired staff advances and $10,000 underfunded balance of rent grant."

It said there was lack of transparency in the programs procurement management process which resulted in price inflation. It added that some suppliers could not be located at their given addresses.

The Association for Reproductive and Family Health, the report said, "could not account for $335,000 listed as administration charges while its unretired expenditures amounted to $168,000."

Also, the report said, "Christian Health Association of Nigeria illegally transferred foreign currency amounting to $11.6m to non-program related account abroad and later refunded the money in local currency. The association was also accused of having a weak procurement and logistics management resulting in inflation of prices."

It accused "CHAN MEDIPHARM, of over-charging on distribution of products to the tune of $256,000; with $77,000 as unexpended amount on training."

When contacted for comments, Kenji Goyit of the Yakubu Gowon Center, said the matter was under investigation. He said a team of investigators from Global Funds have been in Nigeria three times over the matter with the last being in May, acting on a petition to find out if any money had been lost or not. He said since the matter is still under investigation, it would not be advisable to make public comments.

Spokesman for NACA, Mr. Sam Archibong, said when contacted that they were not aware of any investigations. "We are not aware because we did not receive any query from ICPC," he said.

For his part, national coordinator for the National Malaria Control Program Emmanuel Babajide Coker, said "the amount involved is $132,000 not $710,000 and it was used to pay rent."

He said "The situation is not as bad as it is made to seem. And NMCP and other NGOs involved have made their country position clear on the issue."

The Global Fund is a public-private partnership and international financing institution dedicated to attracting and disbursing additional resources to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS, TB and malaria. The funds model, according to information posted on its website, is based on the concepts of country ownership and performance-based funding, which means that people in countries implement their own programs based on their priorities and the Global Fund provides financing on the condition that verifiable results are achieved.

Since its creation in 2002, the Global Fund has become the main financier of programs to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, with approved funding of US$ 21.7 billion for more than 600 programs in 150 countries as of 31 December 2010.

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