The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has cut ties with the Zambian health ministry, a principal recipient of current public sector grants, due to financial irregularities and the sluggish improvement of control systems.
In August 2009, the fund froze USD137 million in grants for Zambia after a forensic audit by the Zambian Auditor General found at least one irregularity.
The freeze was meant to be temporary but the Zambian government’s slow progress in addressing allegations of corruption forced the Global Fund to tap the United Nations Development Program to administer the grants.
“The Government in Zambia initially showed exemplary leadership and a desire to be transparent and open and get to the bottom of the problem,” said Jon Liden, communications director of the Global Fund. “But the zeal with which the government has pursued the investigation slowed down over time.”
He added: “We could not be certain that the Ministry of Health could manage such large grants at this point in time, and asked UNDP to take over.”
The Global Fund, however, anticipates that the Zambian health ministry will again be a recipient of its grants once corruption problems are addressed, Liden said.
Aside from the fund, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark and the European Union have also suspended aid to Zambia.
Sweden and the Netherlands have put in place certain conditions before restoring health aid to the African nation - stolen funds must be reimbursed and a full systems audit verified by an external accountant must be carried out, The Lancet reports.