18 September 2018

Nigeria: Global Fund Accuses TB Network of Misappropriating N20m Workers' Salary

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The Global Fund has accused the Civil Society for the Eradication of Tuberculosis in Nigeria (TB Network) of misappropriating N20, 328, 443 salaries and allowances of employees working on its programmes.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Global Fund, in a recent report published by the organization, said its investigations revealed that the TB Network's National Coordinator, assisted by three other employees, orchestrated a scheme to misappropriate employee salaries and Daily Subsistence Allowance (DSA).

The Global Fund is an international organization that commenced operations in Nigeria in 2003 and has disbursed US $2 billion in the fight against HIV /AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in the country.

Civil Society for the Eradication of Tuberculosis in Nigeria (TB Network) is a sub recipient of Global Fund grants in Nigeria. It has been a sub- recipient since 2013 and is engaged on the Global Fund's Nigeria tuberculosis program in the implementation of prevention, diagnosis and treatment activities at community level which it coordinates through a network of community based organizations.

The report said that the TB Network's National Coordinator, programme manager, former Finance Manager and its national secretary imposed a mandatory salary and DSA deductions scheme on its Global Fund programme employees and that 28 employees paid N16, 791, 646 from their salaries and DSA entitlements to the scheme over a period of 14 months.

The OIG's report alleged that TB Network's management also colluded to misappropriate an additional N3, 536, 797 from Global Fund grant salary disbursements, saying that the management authorized salary payments to five employees for a period of two months, which the employees were not entitled to receive. "These five employees then paid majority of the funds they received to the scheme," the report said.

The report also said that TB Network generated an income of N2, 996,666, from July 2015 to December 2017, by sub-letting an office in its premises to a third party yet didn't disclose it received funding from one of its Global fund grants for the full cost of renting its premises. The TB Network didn't disclose either the sublet or the income to the principal recipient - the Institute of Human Virology (IHVN).

The Global Fund investigation found the management of TB Network culpable for coercion, collusion, fraud and non-compliance with grant agreement. The investigation found non -compliant expenditure totaling US$63, 580.

"Between July 2016 and September 2017, the National coordinator, assisted by the former finance manager and a program internal auditor collected N16, 791, 646 from the salaries and Daily Subsistence Allowance (DSA) entitlements of its employees working on Global Fund programs," the report said.

The report said that the TB Network's management team asked its employees working on Global Fund programs to pay an average of 30 percent of their monthly salary and 10% of their Daily subsistence Allowance (DSA) into the scheme.

The investigation revealed that the TB network's management presented the payment to employees as mandatory and some employees feared they would lose their jobs if they refused to pay.

The Global Fund findings also revealed that TB network's management told the employees that the money was to help fund the organization's running cost and salaries of support staff, adding that however the TB Network's National Coordinator, programme manager, former Finance Manager and its national secretary all benefited from the scheme and received 45 percent of the total funds collected.

However, the report added that the national secretary was not found to be involved in the implementation of the scheme and believed the employees contributed to it voluntarily.

It said the Global Fund secretariat would act against the individuals responsible and seek to recover the total amount on non- compliant expenditures identified in the report.

The accused staff where disengaged from the services of Global Fund following the publication of the report.

The report faulted the IHVN for not reporting to the Global Fund information it received about TB Networks mandatory salary and DSA deductions imposed on employees working on Global Fund programmes.

Daily Trust reached out several times via calls and text messages to the Coordinator of the TB Network, Dr Baba-Gana Hussein Adam, for his response to the allegations, but he was still not available for comments as at press time.

However, one of the indicted officials, who is also one of the management staff, said Global Fund did not give her fair hearing and that she did not authorize any payments as is being alleged by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the organization.

Responding to the allegation of colluding to misappropriate funds by approving salaries for five staff not employed till September, the programme internal auditor who pleaded for anonymity said she had nothing to do with approving any such funds.

"I never reviewed nor participated in the process of preparing these requests, unfortunately the OIG investigators did not give me fair hearing or even bother to investigate if indeed I was involved in preparing the requested documents for the salaries of those months in question. I only review gaps and at that point, the only thing to check for, is if account numbers are correct, I even went further by checking time sheets of the staff," she said.

On the allegation of receiving allowances from the staff welfare scheme, she said she was contracted by TB Network to work on three grants: Active Case Finding, Multi Drug Resistant Tuberculosis, and Community System Strengthening (CSS), adding that while the Global Fund provided salary for her on the first two, no provision was made for her salary on Community System Strengthening (CSS), hence TB Network paid her N89, 695 a month for her work on the project.

"This is money I legitimately earned working on the grant but my only mistake was not signing a contract with TB Network on this, based on trust and the fact that I have worked with the organization previously. Please note that I have also contributed to this savings scheme from 2013 until July 2018," she added.

She said she had worked with honesty and dignity in various capacities for years, and that her integrity is now being questioned due to personal bias by the investigators who did not deem it fit to give her fair hearing on the allegations.

"There was no opportunity for me to clarify if I indeed approved or reviewed the requested documents, even after several correspondences with my lawyer, the OIG is hanging on technicalities to hide the fact that their investigators failed to give me the opportunity to defend myself before accusing me of collusion," the official added.

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