Global Fund suspends millions of dollars in grants to Uganda

BY admin

August 25 2005 11:00 PM ET

The Global Fund
to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria on Wednesday
halted millions of dollars in AIDS funding for Uganda, a
nation usually praised for its fight against HIV,
saying it had found evidence of mismanagement in
distributing the money. The Global Fund said its
auditors had serious concerns about the operations of the
special agency set up by the Ugandan government to
handle cash disbursed by the organization. Although
there was no clear indication of corruption or fraud,
there was evidence of “inappropriate expenditure and
improper accounting,” the Geneva-based body
said.

“The
Global Fund has decided to suspend its five grants to Uganda
because there is evidence of serious mismanagement by
the Project Management Unit,” it said in
reference to the Ugandan government agency.

But the fund
stressed the suspension would not affect the supply of drugs
and other vital assistance to AIDS patients, which could be
monitored directly from Geneva. “All necessary
measures will be taken to ensure that life-saving
treatment as well as prevention activities such as
condom procurement will not be disrupted,” the
group said.

Ugandan health
minister Jim Muhwezi told Reuters in Kampala that the
Global Fund’s fears were based on a small amount of
missing paperwork from nongovernmental organizations
running health programs in remote corners of the
country. “When you suspend all grants because there
is no document from some small group, it is really not
fair on the country, or the people who gave the
money,” he said.

The fund has
given Uganda until October 14 to present reforms for all
grant-funded programs. The suspension would initially last
for two months, during which time the fund was asking
the Ugandan authorities to set up a fresh system for
handling funds that excluded the PMU.

One Ugandan AIDS
activist, retired major Rubaramira Ruranga, executive
director of the National Guidance and Empowerment Network of
People Living with HIV/AIDS, said civil society groups
could handle health funds better than government.
“With this corrupt Uganda as we know it, a lot is
really desired in the management of such resources,”
he told a Ugandan radio station. “But I do
believe the Global Fund will not punish individual
Ugandans because of this failure.”

So far Uganda has
received some $45 million out of $201 million earmarked
for the country by the fund over two years.

Uganda has made
AIDS a top policy priority and has been held up as an
example to other African countries after a government
education campaign cut HIV infection rates to around
6%, from as high as 30% in the early 1990s. (Reuters)

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