Global Fund Says Zimbabwe Misused Grant, Requests Return of Money
The Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has said that Zimbabwe misused $7.3 million of last year's $12.3 million grant, and Global Fund officials have asked Zimbabwe to return the money, the New York Times reports (Dugger, New York Times, 11/3). Zimbabwean financial officers have said they will return the money by Thursday, according to Jon Liden, Global Fund communications director (AP/Google.com, 11/3). According to John Parsons, the Global Fund inspector general, officials in Zimbabwe said they have not repaid the funds because of a lack of foreign currency.
According to Parsons, the Global Fund last year deposited $12.3 million in foreign currency into Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank. Although Parsons did not speculate on how the $7.3 million of the grant was spent, he said it had not been used for the intended purpose. The Reserve Bank's failure to use the money appropriately allowed only 495 Zimbabweans out of the intended 27,000 to receive safe drug distribution training, therefore preventing large quantities of malaria medicines provided by the Global Fund from reaching those in need, according to Parsons. In addition, the drugs will expire by the middle of next year, and it would be "criminal" if the Global Fund is unable to distribute the drugs because of financial management concerns, Parsons said.
Although the Global Fund's Technical Review Panel recently recommended that Zimbabwe's requests for Round 8 funding be approved, the country's management of previous funding may hinder its chances of obtaining a $188 million grant up for consideration by the Global Fund's board on Friday, Parsons said. According to international aid organizations and the United Nations, Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate of more than 230 million% creates additional challenges for providing aid. "We cannot safely leave foreign exchange in Zimbabwe," Parsons said, adding that the organization will need to "find some other means to safeguard our funds." Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, Zimbabwe's information minister, on Sunday said he is unaware of the specifics of the situation but said the Reserve Bank had good intentions. Ndlovu added that Global Fund donations were "nowhere near what the Reserve Bank has spent on health care for the country."
According to the World Health Organization's recent estimates, Zimbabwe has 2.7 million malaria cases among the country's population of 12 million people. In addition, the country reported about 140,000 HIV/AIDS-related deaths last year, the Times reports (New York Times, 11/3). The AP/Google.com reports that efforts to reach government officials in Zimbabwe on Monday were not successful (AP/Google.com, 11/3).