Global Fund Scandal a Lesson

Editorial | 12 Mar 2007
New Vision
That Uganda has been blacklisted by the Global Fund is a blow to the country. As a result, $16m in funds are being lost: $14.7m for malaria and $1.1m for tuberculosis.

The mismanagement of the Global Fund money has been sufficiently exposed by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry. The Ogoola report was a brilliant but sad document of humanitarian aid being squandered and diverted for personal gain.

However, terminating the grants after phase 1 of the project is unfair for two reasons. Firstly, it is punishing the wrong people. Malaria in Uganda is claiming 320 lives per day, mainly children, while tuberculosis is the leading cause of death for people living with HIV/AIDS. Denying them assistance because of the conduct of a few is like closing down a school because of misbehaviour by the head teacher.

Secondly, some efforts have been made to punish the culprits and rectify the situation. The ministers named in the saga have lost their jobs. The project management unit has been disbanded.

Some of the money lost has been refunded. And the names of those held responsible by the Ogoola Commission were sent to the Criminal Investigation Department for further investigations.

True, progress has been slow. CID is taking long to investigate and forward the files for prosecution. The Public Service Commission is yet to take disciplinary action against the public servants mentioned. But it is not that nothing has been done.

The most important is for Uganda to learn lessons from the Global Fund scandal. Foreign aid accounts for 41% of the country's over-all budget - or a staggering sh1,745b. The development budget is even for 90% dependent on donor money. Besides, there are over 5,000 NGOs in Uganda. Some of the bigger ones like World Vision have an annual budget of sh85b.

There is an urgent need for more transparency, stricter regulations and stronger monitoring mechanisms in the way all these funds are being spent if Uganda is to remain the darling of the donors.

The Global Fund's action, however extreme it may have been, should be a wake-up call for our agencies to investigate wrongdoing more aggressively and speed up prosecution of the culprits.

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