South African Government Failing To Disburse Global Fund Money, Executive Director Says, Threatens To Withdraw Funding
The South African government is failing to disburse grant money from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to organizations combating the disease "on the ground," Global Fund Executive Director Richard Feachem said this week, adding that the fund may withdraw the country's money as a result, Reuters reports. Speaking to the South African media, Feachem said, "It's intolerable that the money gets stuck in Pretoria and if Pretoria can't move it for any reason, we will simply withdraw it and establish direct relationships with the people actually doing the work" (Quinn, Reuters, 5/25). The South African government and the Global Fund in August 2003 signed agreements pledging $41 million over two years for HIV/AIDS and TB treatment and prevention programs. The grants are meant to help improve access to antiretroviral therapy for HIV-positive people and bolster voluntary testing and counseling programs in KwaZulu-Natal, the South African province hardest hit by the epidemic. More than one-third of the population in the province is estimated to be HIV-positive, and about 15% of the country's total TB cases live in the province (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/7/03).
Health Department Reaction
South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang on Tuesday said she was "surpris[ed]" and in "disbelief" after hearing Feachem's statements, according to Reuters. "Dr. Feachem has no right to threaten to reorganize arrangements between the fund and South Africa without establishing what the facts are," Tshabalala-Msimang said (Reuters, 5/25). Tshabalala-Msimang has sent a letter to Feachem saying that the National Treasury, which is the principal national recipient of the grants, has disbursed all of the money it has received from the fund, according to SAPA/Independent Online. Soul City, loveLife and various other organizations in KwaZulu-Natal that were designated to receive the initial installment of the first round Global Fund grant all received the money earlier this year, the SAPA/Independent Online reports. The health department last month took steps to secure the second installment of the first round grant for the same groups, according to the SAPA/Independent Online. The South African National AIDS Council, which coordinates applications for fund money, had conducted site visits at loveLife and requested additional financial information from the organization, according to the SAPA/Independent Online. "It appears that the processes relating to the loveLife project have given rise to Dr. Feacham's allegations of delays and cumbersome procedures," the statement said, adding, "However, it is our contention that delays have been minimal and are fully justified in terms of responsible administration" (SAPA/Independent Online, 5/25). Speaking on SABC's "Midday Live," loveLife CEO David Harrison said, "The issue here is that the whole process ... the whole conduit of funding from the Global Fund to loveLife and requisitions back to the Global Fund is simply untenable. It's simply far too complex for anybody, even with the best intentions to be able to negotiate through." He added that "our hope is that we can simply receive funds straight from" the Global Fund (Dempster, "Midday Live," SABC, 5/25). In addition to money from the Global Fund, loveLife receives support from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Anglo American, and the South African government (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/7).
The Global Fund and the South African government in the past have disagreed on funding for antiretroviral drug therapy and whether it should go directly to programs rather than being routed through the central government, according to Reuters (Reuters, 5/25). The two groups in April 2003 twice failed to sign a grant agreement because of technical details, including which government department would be responsible for the grant money (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/7/03). South African health officials on Tuesday said they were fulfilling the Global Fund's terms by allocating all received funds to recipient groups and nongovernmental organizations. "To date there is not a single set of the Global Fund money sitting in the National Treasury," Nono Simelela, head of the health ministry's AIDS programs, said. Although Simelela said that the government would follow the Global Fund's requirements for reviewing HIV/AIDS projects, it also would insist that the fund's money not bypass the central government, according to Reuters. "There is no problem with funding NGOs as long as NGOs are doing work that is aligned with policies of government," Simelela said (Reuters, 5/25).